What is Medical Pharmacology?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 20 October 2019
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Medical pharmacology is the study of pharmacological substances which can be used in the treatment, management, and cure of disease. Medical students often take pharmacology in their second year so that they can learn about how pharmacological agents work and how they can be applied to patient management, and it is also possible to pursue an advanced degree specifically in this field. People who specialize in this field can work as pharmacologists or researchers for pharmaceutical companies, developing new products for the treatment of disease.

The study of medical pharmacology includes a comprehensive understanding of pharmaceuticals and their actions of the body, with a goal to understanding how it is that drugs work. An understanding of action in the body can be very important for a prescribing doctor, as it may alter the doctor's decision about which drug to prescribe and in what dosage. Other aspects of pharmacology include a study of toxicology, determining why drugs are toxic to the body, and how to avoid toxic reactions or bad drug interactions.


Medical pharmacology is also concerned with how drugs are absorbed into the body and distributed, and how they are excreted from the body. All of these topics can be important for a prescribing doctor, as they can impact proper dosage, what time a drug should be taken, and how a drug should be delivered. Different delivery methods can impact the amount of drug absorbed, how long it takes the body to absorb it, and how quickly the body will eliminate it.

In medical practice, doctors rely on the principles of medical pharmacology every day. They need to be able to make good prescribing decisions for their patients, and to be aware of all of the potential reactions and consequences associated with a drug. Pharmacists are also very interested in medical pharmacology because they participate in patient education, and they need to be able to catch problems with prescriptions, such as a prescription written for an unusually high dosage, or a prescription which might conflict with another drug a patient is taking.

In addition to being used in the practice of medicine, medical pharmacology is also important for medical research. Pharmaceutical companies invest heavily in the development of new pharmacological agents, and they rely on the skills of medical pharmacologists to determine that these drugs are safe and effective, and to come up with a protocol for usage, through a series of tests including clinical trials of the drug with real patients.


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Post 2

@JaneAir - You are right in thinking pharmacists are much more than just order takers. Pharmacists attend a four year program after their bachelors degree and get a Pharm.D. degree. During their schooling they take pharmacology courses that are very similar to medical school pharmacology.

Post 1

I was at the pharmacy today and it took a really long time to get my medicine. I always thought all the pharmacists had to do was just get the amount of pills or liquid the doctor prescribed, put it in the bottle, and hand it to the customer. It looks like I was mistaken!

If the pharmacists are well versed in clinical pharmacology and part of their job is double checking the prescription I can understand why filling a prescription would take a few minutes. I think next time I will be a lot more patient when I go to the pharmacy.

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