Topics which are now ancient artifacts

Page created on January 7, 2022. Not updated since.

A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away, when I had pharmacology, the subject used to be split into three rather than 2. Pharma 1 and 2 in the first and second semester of third year, followed by Pharma 3 in the first semester of fourth year. With the change to the current (fourth-year two-semester) system came some small changes in the topic list. Some topics which were in the list when I had my exam were removed. Rather than delete them outright, I’ve decided to leave them here, to collect dust.

Also, students having the new system have an easier time in third and fourth year than we did, in my opinion. Fight me.

In my opinion, topic 1 is bs, but topic 2 may be useful to read through.

1. Definition of pharmacology and the related subjects. Drug development

Pharmacology is both a subject and a science. Pharmacology deals with drugs, in particular with their:

  • History
  • Source
  • Physical and chemical properties
  • Biochemical and physiological effects
  • Mechanisms of action
  • Fate in the body
  • Therapeutic, diagnostic and preventive uses
  • Side effects, toxic effects and contraindications

Pharmacology has a handful of “sister”-subjects, that are closely related to it.

Pharmacokinetics deal with what the body does to the drug, as soon as the drug is administered to the patient. This means especially the drug absorption by the body, the distribution of the drug in the body, how the body metabolizes the drug, and how the body eventually excretes it.

Pharmacodynamics deal with what the drug does to the body. Specifically, whether the drug activates, stimulates or inhibits certain mechanisms.

Pharmacotherapy deals with using drugs to prevent and treat diseases, which is what physicians mostly do.

Other, less relevant subjects include homeopathy (complete bullshit), phytotherapy (using plants or plant extracts), toxicology (drug poisoning), pharmaceutical chemistry (production of drugs) and pharmacy (preparation, dispensing, quality control and teaching patients about drugs).

2. Drug names, drug compendia.

Drug names

Every drug has many names. They have:

  • 1 generic name
  • 1 chemical name
  • many trade names

All drugs are molecules. However, the chemical names of molecules quickly become very long and hard to remember, like N-(4-hydroxyphenyl)ethanamide. Because chemical names are cumbersome we give all drug molecules a generic, international name that is the same anywhere in the world. The generic name that was given to the drug above was paracetamol, which is much easier to remember than N-(4-hydroxyphenyl)ethanamide. In some cases where the chemical name is simple the generic name will be the same as the chemical name, as in acetyl-salicylic acid, also known as Aspirin.

Interestingly, paracetamol is one of the very few drugs with more than one generic name. It’s known as acetaminophen in the USA.

One type of drug may be manufactured by many different pharmaceutical companies, and one company can produce the same active ingredient but in different forms. For example, paracetamol exists in tablet, capsule, suppository, intravenous, intramuscular and liquid suspension formulations. In some cases paracetamol is given together with another drug in the same formulation, like caffeine or codeine. Each of the different pharmaceutical companies can give each formulation a unique name.

Paracetamol tablets produced by the pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson is called Tylenol®, Panadol® by GlaxoSmithKline or Paracet® (in Norway) by Weifa. All of these are trade names. Each of the trade names are registered trademarks by the respective companies, so no other company can use their trade names.

My notes will sometimes include trade names of some drugs, where I find it fitting because the trade name is well known. However, this is not something you need to know for the exam.

The generic name of a drug is often given so that drugs with similar properties or effects have similar names, often similar endings. Here are a few examples:

-azepam or -azolamDiazepam derivatives
-caineLocal anaesthetics
-cillinPenicillin-based antibiotics
-iumQuaternary ammonium compounds
-mabMonoclonal antibodies
-ololBeta blockers
-prilACE inhibitors
-profenIbuprofen derivatives
-statEnzyme inhibitors
-stigmineAcetylcholinesterase inhibitors
-trop-Atropine derivatives

It’s not necessary to know this table, however it can be good to see that generic names aren’t always totally random and confusing. A comprehensive list of the conventions of generic names can be found here.

Drug compendia

Drug compendia are large collections of the drugs that are revised by physicians, pharmacists and medical scientists. In these compendia can you find information about drug dosage, usage, mechanism of action, counterindications, risks, side effects and more.

Each country has their own drug compendia. Norway’s drug compendium is called Felleskatalogen. In most countries the drug compendia can be found online.

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