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Introduction, definition and scope of Pharmacology

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                             DEFINITION OF PHARMACOLOGY
Pharmacology is the study of the therapeutic value and/or potential toxicity of chemical agents on biological
systems.

It targets every aspect of the mechanisms for the chemical actions of both traditional and novel therapeutic
agents.

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Two important and interrelated areas are: pharmacodynamic and pharmacokinetics.
i. Pharmacodynamic (what drug does with the body) are the study of the molecular, biochemical, and
physiological effects of drugs on cellular systems and their mechanisms of action.
ii. Pharmacokinetics (what body does with the drug) deals with the absorption, distribution, and excretion
of drugs.
SCOPE OF PHARMACOLOGY
A. History

It is of intellectual interest to know how drugs are discovered and developed. Often in the past, this was
based on folklore or intelligent observation (e.g. digitalis leaf, penicillin). Nowadays, new drugs are
mostly developed by the organic chemist working with a pharmacologist, increasingly from basic
knowledge about key molecular targets. Usually some sort of biological screen is used to select among
organic molecules for optimum pharmacological activity.
1. Francois Magendie (1783-1855), a French physiologist laid down the dictum “Facts and facts alone are
the basis of science.” Experimental procedures with animals are the testing grounds for determination of
drug action.
2. Claude Bernard (1813-1878), investigated the plant extract curare and proposed a site of action for this
agent.
3. Rudolph Buchheim (1820-1879). In 1847 Buchheim established the first laboratory devoted to
experimental pharmacology in the basement of his home in Dorpat which is known as the cradle of
experimental pharmacology.
4. Oswald Schmiedeberg (1838-1921). In 1872 set up an institute of pharmacology in Strasbourg, France
(Germany at that time) which became a mecca for students who were interest in pharmacological
problems.
5. J.N. Langley (1852-1925 and Sir Henry Dale (1875-1968) pioneered pharmacology in England, taking a
physiological approach.
6. John J. Abel (1857-1938) established the first chair of pharmacology in the U.S.A. (U. Michigan, 1891) after
training in Germany. Able went to Johns Hopkins in 1893, and trained many U.S. pharmacologists. He is
known as “The Father of American Pharmacology”.
7. The Second World War was the impetus for accelerated research in pharmacology (the war time
antimalarial program) in the U.S., and introduced strong analytical and synthetic chemical approaches.

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