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Unit information: Mechanisms of Drug Action 1A in 2015/16

Please note: you are viewing unit and programme information for a past academic year. Please see the current academic year for up to date information.

Unit name Mechanisms of Drug Action 1A
Unit code PHPH10005
Credit points 20
Level of study C/4
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Professor. Kelly
Open unit status Not open

A'Level Chemistry recommended


A-level Biology is not essential but students will be required to study basic cell biology during the unit

School/department School of Physiology, Pharmacology & Neuroscience
Faculty Faculty of Life Sciences

Description including Unit Aims

This unit provides students with a broad introduction to pharmacology. The unit begins with an introduction to the physiology of the different cell types in the body and how drugs modulate their function. Fundamental principles of drug-receptor interactions are discussed. Neurotransmission, as a major target for selective drug action and clinical intervention, is illustrated by consideration of the pharmacology of the autonomic nervous system. Drug toxicity, adverse reactions to drugs, and general toxicological principles contribute an important and interesting aspect to the unit. Workbooks are used to build upon and expand lecture material.


To understand:

  • The physiology of the different cell types in the body and how drugs modulate their function
  • The nature of the interaction between drugs and their cellular receptors
  • Neurotransmission as a site of drug action with particular reference to the action of drugs on the Autonomic Nervous System
  • The adverse effects of drugs and drug toxicity
  • The basic ways in which drug action can be investigated, analysed and presented using tissue preparations in the laboratory class

Intended Learning Outcomes

  • A thorough knowledge of each of the areas covered in the unit, to enable further study of pharmacology in Mechanisms of Drug Action 1B
  • The ability to measure drug action using isolated tissue preparations
  • The ability to integrate information from lectures, laboratory work and workbooks
  • The ability to critically assess the work of others by peer marking

Teaching Information

  • lectures
  • practicals/demonstrations
  • Tutorials

Assessment Information

Exam paper (end of unit) 70% Workbook 20% Laboratory work 10%

Reading and References

Recommended textbooks

Multiple copies of these books are available from the Lifezone. However Pharmacology Honours students may wish to have their own copy of “Pharmacology” to use throughout their degree course (a new 7th edition of this textbook is now out but the older editions are still fine to use; note that Professor Graeme Henderson from this School co-authored the latest edition). A handout is provided for most lectures but it is a good idea to consult a textbook to supplement your lectures notes and to clear up any problems you have with the lecture material. The two textbooks listed below are particularly relevant to the first year unit:

  • Pharmacology, (7th Edition) H.P. Rang, M.M. Dale, J. M. Ritter, R. J. Flower and G. Henderson, Churchill Livingstone. Price £40-£50.
  • Introduction to Toxicology (3rd edition), J.A. Timbrell, Taylor & Francis. Useful for toxicology lectures in Unit 1A.

Other useful books and websites include:

  • Instant Pharmacology, K Saeb-Parsy, RG Assomull, FZ Khan, K Saeb-Parsy & E Kelly. A textbook containing concise descriptions of the different drug classes as well as an extensive dictionary of drugs which you may find useful.
  • The Pharmacological Basis of Therapeutics (11th Edition). L.S. Goodman & A. Gilman. Extensive detail about many drugs.
  • Basic & Clinical Pharmacology (11th Edition) B.G. Katzung. Has a lot of clinically-orientated material.
  • Integrated Pharmacology, (2nd edition) CP Page, MJ Curtis, MC Sutter, MJA Walker & BB Hoffman. Has a lot of clinically-orientated material.
  • Medical Pharmacology at a Glance (6th edition) M. Neal, Blackwell Scientific Press. A revision aide, not a complete textbook.


These texts should be consulted when you are having problems understanding the fundamental biological principles/nomenclature mentioned in lectures.

  • Roberts: Biology 2nd edition (2001) Designed to cover the 2001 GCSE specifications for Biology
  • Patrick, G.L.: An Introduction to medicinal chemistry 4th edition.

The following websites may also be helpful: