What is Pharmacotherapy?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Pharmacotherapy is a science which focuses on the use of drugs to treat disease. This branch of the sciences involves almost every branch of medicine, and integrates a wide variety of sciences such as chemistry as well. Many people around the world benefit from pharmacotherapy each year, and the pharmacotherapy industry is huge money-maker for companies which invest in the development and sale of pharmaceutical drugs. So-called “blockbuster drugs” can make millions of dollars for their parent companies, generating a significant return on investment.

Many medications are available only through a doctor's prescription.
Many medications are available only through a doctor's prescription.

This science is among the oldest of the sciences on Earth. Most cultures have a tradition of pharmacotherapy, such as the herbal aspects of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Asia. Pharmacotherapy started thousands of years ago with naturally available plants, animal products, and other materials, and started to evolve into a more precise science in the 1800s, with the development of synthetic drugs and extensive research into drugs, their dosages, and their effects.

Access to prescription drugs is restricted to help ensure people use the properly.
Access to prescription drugs is restricted to help ensure people use the properly.

Modern pharmacotherapy relies heavily on producing tightly-controlled drugs, ensuring that dosages are easy to calculate because the drugs are pure and consistent, whether they are made from natural sources or synthesized. This represents a marked departure from traditional pharmacotherapy, which relies on inherently unpredictable natural products to build a pharmacopoeia.

Rainforest plants may have pharmacotherapy uses.
Rainforest plants may have pharmacotherapy uses.

Drugs produced for distribution, sale, and use can be divided into two rough categories. Over the counter drugs are freely available to consumers at drugstores, while prescription drugs are available only by prescription. Access to prescription drugs is restricted to ensure that these drugs are used appropriately.

Over-the-counter drugs will be available to consumers at drugstores.
Over-the-counter drugs will be available to consumers at drugstores.

In pharmacotherapy, researchers work on developing new drugs, studying the effects of these drugs, calculating dosages, and determining how these drugs should be used. Pharmacotherapy also involves the study of drug interactions, the use of long-term studies to see how drugs interact with their users over decades and generations, and research into new uses for old drugs. Many pharmacotherapy researchers are also interested in the potential applications of traditional medicines, including rainforest plants, which have attracted a great deal of attention due to their dwindling habitat and potential applications.

The sale of prescription drugs is regulated by federal and local laws.
The sale of prescription drugs is regulated by federal and local laws.

In order to work in this field, people usually study biology and chemistry extensively. Many of the people working in this industry also have medical degrees, sometimes with a specific focus, and the field also includes people like epidemiologists, who study emerging disease, along with lawyers who specialize in issues related to pharmacotherapy, PhDs in fields like biology and chemistry, and savvy businesspeople.

Pharmacotherapy researchers are constantly looking for cheaper ways to produce needed prescription medication.
Pharmacotherapy researchers are constantly looking for cheaper ways to produce needed prescription medication.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments

anon138706

I really think mindmaps could help to study pharmacotherapy. how do you do it? Thank you so much for your help.

anon78323

I'm a clinical pharmacist, interested in making concept and mind maps for "pharmacotherapy", to help whoever studies, teaches, or practices it getting a large inter-linked picture for every disease.

As I think that understanding pharmacotherapy depends on understanding the pathophysiology of a disease and linking it with etiology, signs and symptoms, diagnostic parameters, and treatment.

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