Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Academic Year
Semester 2
Other Staff

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Lecture 3 x 1 hour lectures per week


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment Group project and presentation  30%
Semester Exam 3 Hours   70%
Supplementary Exam 3 Hours   Examination and/or submission of two essays (15% each) in lieu of failed coursework, depending on the element(s) of assessment that caused the failure of the module.  100%

Learning Outcomes

On completion of the module, students should be able to:

  • Describe the fundamental principles and processes underlying drug action and drug metabolism relating these to general issues of efficacy
  • Relate general principles to specific examples of drug use in human disease in the context of the pathological mechanisms
  • Discuss critically the factors affecting the choice of drugs in a specific situation and the potential for drug toxicity
  • Discuss the molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying the actions of biological toxins.


This module aims to introduce students to some of the fundamental concepts of molecular drug action, drug disposition and drug metabolism which underpin pharmacology. These concepts will be reinforced with studies of drug use in specific clinical situations and a discussion of the factors influencing drug choice. Toxicology will be discussed not only from the standpoint of naturally occurring toxins, but also the toxicity of drugs in clinical situations


The module will start with an examination of the molecular mechanisms utilised by drugs in eliciting their effects. Concepts of receptors, signalling and ion channels will be introduced and related to drug action. The influence of drug disposition and absorption will be discussed in terms of their impact on drug efficacy. Mechanisms of drug elimination will be studied and all of these factors will be considered in the context of pharmacokinetics.
Following the initial 'foundation' section outlined above, the concepts will be applied to specific systems by considering (in most cases) specific conditions. Each will start with a lecture which outlines the anatomical, physiological and cell biological context in which the drugs act.
System 1: Autonomic nervous system. Discussion of drugs acting on the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, their mechanisms, design and usage considerations. Specific focus on aetiology of and treatments for asthma and Parkinson'r disease.
System 2: Heart. Physiology of the heart and cell biology of cardiac impulse generation. Specific focus on aetiology of and treatments for chronic heart failure and angina.
System 3: Brain. Anatomy and physiology of the brain. Specific focus on aetiology of and treatments for depression, schizophrenia and epilepsy.
System 4: Nociception. Anatomy, physiology and cell biology of pain perception. Options for pain management including opioids, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and anaesthesia.
The final section will focus on toxicology introducing the fundamental concepts and illustrating these with reference to specific animal, fungal and plant toxins.
It is hoped that there will be one or more research-led guest lectures during the course of this module.

Students without the pre-requisites should have a knowledge of the following topics:

Neuron structure and the action potential
Muscle cell structure and function
Basic intercellular communication
The plasma membrane, solute transport and endo/exocytosis
Transcription (and transcription factors)

AND a year 2 level of knowledge and understanding of enzymes and the relationship between structure and activity/inhibition.

Students should be aware that if they opt to take the module without the pre-requisites then they would not have the right of appeal based on that lack if they fail.

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Application of Number Not relevant to course
Communication The students will be expected to read widely, integrate widely differing forms of information and communicate the relevant (sometimes opposing) data in their review and presentations.
Improving own Learning and Performance The course has an emphasis on self-learning as integral to fully exploiting the opportunities offered by the course. This entails the students developing their own learning regimes based on careful self-management of time and study approaches.
Information Technology The course requires students to produce a professional review article (based on a format such as those in `Trends¿ journals). The assessed IT elements of the review document go beyond the taught IT components of years 1 & 2 and require students to acquire additional skills in technologies (e.g. use of page-setting software) that are of direct relevance to professional skills development.
Personal Development and Career planning The course will develop the student¿s ability to access data from a variety of sources and both synthesise this into a review and presentation. This will augment the student¿s critical faculties and communication skills. Such represent valuable transferable skills. The module also acts as an introduction into major areas of scientific research and should therefore help in the planning of future courses (MPhil/PhD) or careers,
Problem solving Not a formal part of the course
Research skills The course demands considerable further reading in order for the students to fully understand the concepts that will be discussed in the lectures as well as for the coursework. Especially for the latter component, this reading must include primary research papers. Therefore, the students will be expected to understand experimental approaches and results. This, together with the proper assessment of the results, demands considerable research skills.
Subject Specific Skills The subjects covered are major areas of research in molecular biology. The will be a large number of vocational opportunities which will arise from the knowledge base and practical exercises which feature in this module.
Team work The students will be expected to collaborate within small groups to develop a review & presentation on a given topic. This will involve showing interpersonal skills to come to join decisions as to the major themes of the topic under-discussion and share the work-loads appropriately. Students will be expected to keep meeting minutes.

Reading List

General Text
(2007.) Rang and Dale's pharmacology /H. P. Rang, Maureen M. Dale, James M. Ritter. 6th ed. Churchill Livingstone/Elsevier Primo search


This module is at CQFW Level 6