From ArticleWorld

Pharmacology is the science of medicines, body physiology and how the two interact in health and illness. A collegiate degree in pharmacology is given to one who becomes a pharmacologist. A pharmacologist can specialize in clinical pharmacology, theoretical pharmacology and neuro- or psychopharmacology. The study of pharmacology must involve the intimate knowledge of every medication used in humans and animals.

Disease-specific pharmacology

Those who study pharmacology can study it from a disease perspective or from a medical or biochemical perspective. The disease perspective of pharmacology looks at body processes in health and illness and studies how certain medications can affect the body processes in question. In the field of psychopharmacology, researchers study the patterns of brain chemicals and dysfunction in diseases like depression.

For example, depressed patients were found to have reduced amounts of norepinephrine and serotonin in their brains. The job of researchers in pharmacology, then, was to develop ways of raising the levels of these brain neurotransmitters. Further studies in pharmacology developed a class of medications called serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors or SSRIs. These medications block the breakdown of these neurotransmitters thus raising the overall levels.

Pharmacology researchers are also responsible for determining the safety and effectiveness of new drugs. Dosages are determined and multiple phases of clinical trials must be done before a new drug is approved by the FDA or other regulatory agency for human use. Only then can the product be marketed and sold.

Medical and biochemical approach

Another major area of pharmacology involves the specifics of a given medication as it applies to its pharmacokinetics. Pharmacokinetics studies the way a medication is given and the overall pathway it takes in the body. The way a medication is absorbed into the body is studied, including whether or not it is degraded in the stomach or is excessively metabolized by the liver after being absorbed—a phenomenon called the first-pass effect.

This model of pharmacology looks at where the medication is distributed. Some medications are lipophilic, meaning that they are found preferentially in fatty tissue. Other medications need to be assessed to see if they cross the blood-brain barrier, which could be good if it’s a medicine that’s supposed to work in the brain, or bad if it causes side effects from its presence in the brain.

The metabolism of a given medication must be understood fully. Some medicines are only metabolized in the liver while others are not metabolized at all. Further, some metabolites are toxic and medications with toxic metabolites must be avoided.

Finally, the manner of excretion of the drug and its metabolites must be understood. Some are eliminated via the stool, while others are eliminated through the urine, the skin or the lungs.