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Unit information: Mechanisms of Drug Action 1B 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 1B
Unit code PHPH10006
Credit points 20
Level of study C/4
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Hodge
Open unit status Not open

PHPH10005 Mechanisms of Drug Action 1A



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

Description including Unit Aims

This unit builds upon the principles introduced in unit 1A and focuses on more applied/systematic aspects of pharmacology. Students gain an understanding of the processes involved in drug design and development, from molecule to the clinical evaluation of new therapeutic agents. The pharmacology of endocrine systems are described and drug selectivity, in particular selective toxicity, is further pursued with the study of antimicrobial and cancer chemotherapy. Workbooks are used to develop areas that are relevant for, as well as extra to, the lecture material. Practical work, computer assisted learning (CAL), as for unit 1A.


To understand:

  • The molecular basis of how drugs interact with proteins including the different forces and bonds involved
  • The importance of stereoisomerism in pharmacology
  • Key concepts involved with drugs in solution for instance their hydrophobicity/hydrophilicity and acid/base properties
  • How drug design is performed using a number of illustrative examples
  • The processes involved in drug development from discovery to making a prescription drug
  • The biochemical foundations underlying antibacterial drugs, their clinical use and problems associated with bacterial resistance
  • The mechanisms of action of drugs, clinical uses and adverse effects of drugs that modulate the function of the major endocrine glands
  • To explain the mechanisms of action and adverse effects of drugs used in the treatment of cancer, fungal infections, protozoal infections and helminth (worm) infestations,
  • The basic ways in which drug binding can be investigated, analysed and presented using radioligands

Intended Learning Outcomes

  • A thorough knowledge of each of the areas covered in the unit, to enable further study of pharmacology in year 2 and beyond
  • The ability to measure and analyse binding using radioligands
  • The ability to integrate information from lectures and laboratory work
  • The ability to critically assess the work of others by peer marking

Teaching Information

  • lectures
  • practicals

Assessment Information

Exam paper (end of year) 70% Workbook 20% Laboratory Work 10%

Reading and References

Recommended textbooks

Multiple copies of these books are available from the library

A handout is provided for most lectures. However, 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 three textbooks listed below are particularly relevant to the course:

  • Pharmacology, (7th Edition) H.P. Rang, M.M. Dale, J. M. Ritter, R. J. Flower and G. Henderson, Churchill Livingstone.
  • Introduction to Toxicology (3rd edition), J.A. Timbrell, Taylor & Francis. Useful for toxicology lectures in Unit 1A
  • Patrick, G.L.: Introduction to medicinal chemistry 2nd-4th edition. Copies available in the Chemistry library. An excellent introduction to drug design and also contains an introduction to the biology you need to know.

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.
  • Stereochemistry, David G. Morris, 2001, Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge, UK, ISBN 0-85404-602-X. An excellent introduction to stereochemistry with worked problems and excellent examples illustrating stereochemical principles. Copies are available in the Chemistry and Medical school libraries.
  • 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: