Pharmacology: How Drugs Work

Subject PHRM20001 (2013)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2013.

Credit Points: 12.50
Level: 2 (Undergraduate)
Dates & Locations:

This subject is not offered in 2013.

Time Commitment: Contact Hours: Lectures, 3x weekly; Tutorials / workshops (1 hr) 6 / semester; Practicals (3hr) 2 / semester (total contact hours: 48)
Total Time Commitment:

120 hours


Students should have successfully completed level 1 subjects in Chemistry AND Biology (combined value of 37.5 points).

Students wishing to undertake this subject as breadth will need the approval of the subject co-ordinator.



Recommended Background Knowledge:


Non Allowed Subjects:

This subject cannot be taken if credit has been previously obtained for 534-201 Fundamentals of Pharmacology.

Core Participation Requirements:

It is University policy to take all reasonable steps to minimise the impact of disability upon academic study and reasonable steps will be made to enhance a student’s participation in the University’s programs.
This subject requires all students to actively and safely participate in laboratory activities. Students who feel their disability may impact upon their participation are encouraged to discuss this with the subject coordinator and the Disability Liaison Unit:


Academic Coordinators

Dr Graham MacKay:

Dr Jane Bourke

Administrative Coordinator

Ms Hong Nguyen

Subject Overview:

Pharmacology is an exciting discipline that provides insight into the mechanisms of action and beneficial and unwanted effects of drugs in the body. This is achieved by integrating knowledge from a range of biosciences including how the body works in health and disease. This subject uses specific examples of instantly recognizable and newly developed drugs to demonstrate how pharmacologists identify drug targets, design new drugs and test their therapeutic effectiveness.

  • To provide an understanding of the basic principles of drug action, this subject focuses on receptor sites that mediate drug action and the physiological and biochemical mechanisms associated with the response to a drug. In addition, the subject investigates the ways in which drugs are handled by the body in terms of their absorption, distribution and metabolism.The activity of hormones and drugs, including commonly used therapeutic agents for cancer, hypertension, asthma and depression are utilised to illustrate these principles. The subject also examines the development of new drugs from natural sources or new chemical syntheses and how these drugs are evaluated and regulated. Aspects of drugs of abuse and addiction and the potential strategies for dealing with this problem are explored. The principles of selective toxicity, the toxicology of environmental contaminants and aspects of venoms and toxins are also examined.
  • The practical course is provided to reinforce the lecture material, and to give hands-on experience in experiments that illustrate the basic concepts of the pharmacological concentration-response relationship, competitive antagonism and pharmacodynamic and pharmacokinetic principles.

  • Continuing assessment of practical and computer-aided learning work during the semester (20%).
  • Mid-semester assessment (20%).
  • A 2-hour written examination in the examination period (60%).

This subject has a practical component. Attendance and participation in 80% of the practicals is a hurdle requirement.

Prescribed Texts:

Course manual (provided)

Recommended Texts:

Although there are no prescribed textbooks for Pharmacology the following textbooks are
recommended. All are available in the Brownless library.

Harvey: Pharmacology, 4th edition. Lippincott, Williams and Wilkins

Rang, Dale, Ritter, Flower and Henderson, Pharmacology, 7th edition. Churchill Livingstone

Katzung, Basic and Clinical Pharmacology, 12th edition. Lange

Golan, Principles of Pharmacology, (3rd edition). Lippincott, Williams and Wilkins.

Neal, Medical Pharmacology at a Glance (7th edition). Blackwell. (revision purposes)

Breadth Options:

This subject potentially can be taken as a breadth subject component for the following courses:

You should visit learn more about breadth subjects and read the breadth requirements for your degree, and should discuss your choice with your student adviser, before deciding on your subjects.

Fees Information: Subject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date
Generic Skills:

By the end of this subject students should have:

  • an understanding of the scientific basis of the action of the drugs

and developed skills in

  • experimental design and techniques
  • use of information technology resources for data analysis and interpretation.
  • critical thinking and problem solving
  • effective participation in small group work

This subject is available to students enrolled in the BSc, Biomedicine degree.

Special requirements: laboratory coat.

Experiments involving the use of animals are an essential part of this subject; exemption is not possible.

Related Majors/Minors/Specialisations: Medicinal Chemistry
Science credit subjects* for pre-2008 BSc, BASc and combined degree science courses
Science-credited subjects - new generation B-SCI and B-ENG. Core selective subjects for B-BMED.

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