School of Medical Sciences

MEDSCI 204 Course details

Aims of the course

The MEDSCI 204 course aims to provide a broad and wide-ranging introduction to drug action and toxicity built on a solid base of general principles. Its goals are to impart a working understanding of the nature, applications and implications of basic pharmacological and toxicological principles as they relate to clinical and biomedical sciences.

A pass in this course is necessary for students wishing to take third-year papers in Pharmacology. After completing this course, students will have a sound working knowledge of the following principles and concepts fundamental to pharmacology and toxicology, with exemplars from common clinically important drugs:

  1. Pharmacodynamics: The nature and classification of types of drug targets; receptor-ligand relationships and signal transduction systems; agonism and antagonism; potency and efficacy; dose/concentration response relationships; time-course of drug action; pharmacodynamic parameters (pA2, Emax, Bmax, EC50, ED50, IC50, Kd).
  2. Pharmacokinetics: Adsorption, distribution, metabolism and excretion (ADME) principles & quantitation, and their affect on the onset, duration and intensity of drug action; importance of route of administration; physicochemical properties of drugs in relation to ADME principles; patient and environmental factors that influence ADME variables; pharmacokinetic parameters (bioavailability, loading/maintenance dose, T½, Cmax, Vd, Cl, AUC).
  3. Toxicology: Toxicity classification and testing; types of toxicity and toxic compounds; the basis and consequences of drug interactions and adverse effects; selective toxicity/poisons (chemotherapy); chronic and acute toxicity; toxicological parameters (LD50, TD50, therapeutic index).
  4. The principles of pharmacological manipulation of the autonomic nervous system (ANS) as a classical model of pharmacological principles.
  5. Clinical pharmacology: drug efficacy and population (heterogeneity) effects; side effects (positive and negative) and drug interactions; dose-response relationships, biomarkers & surrogate/clinical endpoints; time-course and duration of drug action; risk-benefit considerations; drug development/trials and monitoring.

The following skills will be mastered:

  1. Drug literature and database searching
  2. Review and analysis skills pertaining to drug information media
  3. Scientific writing and referencing conventions

Remote Learning Requirements

If you can read this then you obviously have an internet connection, which is the first prerequisite for remote learning. Course guidelines, contact and assessment details and on-line labs are accessible through this site. Unfortunately Macs will not run the "PharmaCALogy" lab software. Some figures in the lectures are in colour so obviously access to a colour printer is advantageous, but not necessary.


There are 34 lecture sessions plus 2 tests. Lectures are 7.55-8.45 am Tuesday-Thursday, held in the Robb (basement) with video linkage to the Henley (4th floor) lecture theatre at the Faculty of Medical & Health Sciences on the Grafton campus.

The structure of the course is as follows:

Topic Lecture number Week
Introduction to course & pharmacology 1 - 2 1
ADME & pharmacokinetics 3 - 9 1 - 3
Drug targets & actions (pharmacodynamics) 10- 13 4 - 5
Drugs of the autonomic nervous system 14 - 17 5 - 6
Clinical measurement of drug action 18  
Toxicity & adverse drug actions 20 - 23 9 - 10
Selective toxicity - chemotherapeutics 24 - 27 10 - 11
Integrated / clinical pharmacology 28 - 35 12 - 14

Lecture notes

All lecture notes are to be found in the course manual. Lecture notes (as pdf files) will also be available on-line via Cecil. This will allow you to read and print the lecture notes in colour if required and to follow the hyperlinks to accessory information. Acess Cecil.

Computer laboratories

To take full advantage of advances in computer assisted learning (CAL), interactive computer labs have been incorporated into the course using Pharma-CAL-ogy software that can be completed online, at home at your convenience, or at the University using the computers in the information commons. Computers are also for use in the MDC lab (Physiology Dept, 2nd floor, FMHS) but please note that these are unavailable when the lab is booked for other courses. Full details on the labs, with instructions on how to access and install the software, can be found here.

Recommended text books

  1. Pharmacology, 6th Edition. HP Rang, MM Dale, JM Ritter, R Flower. Churchill Livingstone; March 2007. ISBN 0443069115

    Note: The text book is not a prerequisite for this course, but is very useful and will remain applicable for those doing third year Pharmacology courses.
  2. Integrated Pharmacology, Page, Curtis, Sutter, Walker and Hoffman, Mosby Publishing, 2002

    This text book is also useful and relevant to the course but not particularly recommended for third year Pharmacology courses.
  3. Basic and Clinical Pharmacology, 10th Edition; Ed. B.G. Katzung; Lange Medical Books/McGraw-Hill

Textbooks are available at the University Book Store (Kate Edger Information Commons, City Campus) or from Medical Books, 8 Park Road, Grafton (by the Medical School). A few copies are also available at the Philson Library. NOTE: Text books are not compulsory for this course - the material covered in the lectures is sufficient to obtain a pass grade. However, additional background material included in the recommended text may enhance your understanding of the material and improve your performance in the exams.

Visit University Bookshop's website for more information


The course is assessed by exam, course work and laboratory assessment. The proportioning of final marks is as follows:

Assessment Proportion Date
Mid-semester test 10% 12th Sept 
Research assignment 20% 30th Sept
Final exam 50% TBA

Further assessment details can be found here.