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Principles of Pharmacology

Spring 2005

Chemotherapy drugs in vials and an IV bottle.

Chemotherapy drugs in vials and an IV bottle. (Photo by Bill Branson. Courtesy of National Cancer Institute Visuals Online.)

Course Highlights

This course features extensive lecture notes.

Course Description

The object of the course is to teach students an approach to the study of pharmacologic agents. It is not intended to be a review of the pharmacopoeia. The focus is on the basic principles of biophysics, biochemistry and physiology, as related to the mechanisms of drug action, biodistribution and metabolism. The course consists of lectures and student-led case discussions. Topics covered include: mechanisms of drug action, dose-response relations, pharmacokinetics, drug delivery systems, drug metabolism, toxicity of pharmacological agents, drug interaction and substance abuse. Selected agents and classes of agents are examined in detail.


Course Overview

The course material will focus on the basic principles of biophysics, biochemistry and physiology related to drug action and interaction, distribution, metabolism and toxicity. The course will consist of lectures, a clinical demonstration session at Massachusetts General Hospital, and lecturer and student-led case discussions.


Students must complete three assignments in this class: a case discussion, a drug evaluation report, and a problem set.

Most class sessions finish with a pair of student-led case discussions. These discussions cover some important topics in pharmacology which are either not addressed or dealt with only briefly in faculty lectures. Each case discussion will be analyzed by 2 students, and each student will be expected to give an oral presentation for about 10 minutes. These presentations may be used to satisfy part of the HST communication requirement

The drug evaluation report is a short paper dealing with a relatively new FDA-approved drug selected from a list provided by the instructors.


Students will take a midterm and final exam.


HST students taking this course will be graded on an Excellent, Satisfactory, Unsatisfactory basis. The grade of Marginally Satisfactory may also be given in borderline cases. HST (or HMS) M.D. student grades will be recoded as Pass/Fail. Student evaluations will be based on written homework, classroom work and oral presentations, as well as the midterm and final examinations.



Golan, D., et. al., eds. Principles of Pharmacology: The Pathophysiologic Basis of Drug Therapy. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins, 2004. ISBN: 9780781746786.


Hardman, J. G., et. al., eds. Goodman and Gilman's The Pharmacological Basis of Therapeutics. 10th ed. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill, 2001. ISBN: 9780071354691.

This work, known as "G and G" (for the original editors, Goodman and Gilman), is an excellent reference many of you will want on your shelves. New editions have been coming out at roughly five year intervals.


1 Introduction

Receptors / Dose-Response
Dr. Carl Rosow

Prof. Gary Strichartz
2 Pharmacokinetics I

Pharmacokinetics II
Prof. Carol Walsh

Prof. Carol Walsh
3 Interpreting Clinical Literature

Cholinergic Pharmacology

Case: Anticholinesterase
Harold Demonaco

Prof. Gary Strichartz

4 Drug Metabolism


Cases: Anticoagulation, Sulfasalazine
Dr. Mark Dershwitz

Dr. Mark Dershwitz

5 Autonomic Pharmacology I

Autonomic Pharmacology II

Cases: Pheochromocytoma, Asthma
Dr. Carl Rosow

Dr. Carl Rosow

6 Local Anesthetics


Cases: Poison Control, Cocaine
Prof. Gary Strichartz

Dr. Jeremy Ruskin

7 Pharmacokinetics III

Antiinflammatory Drugs

Case: Glaucoma
Prof. Robert Langer

Dr. Michael Weinblatt

Problem set due
8 Vasoactive Drugs I

Vasoactive Drugs II: Heart Failure

Cases: Pharmacogenetics, Thyroid Disease
Prof. Keith Baker

Prof. Keith Baker

9 Lipid Lowering Drugs

Cases: Placental Transfer, Gout
Dr. Robert Lees

10 Antihistamines

Immunosuppression for Solid Organ Transplantation

Cases: Antiemetics, Geriatric Pharmacology
Dr. Mark Dershwitz

Prof. Thomas Spitzer

11 Midterm Exam

Drug Development
Dr. Daniel Kohane  
12 Neuropharmacology I: Drugs for Movement Disorders

Nitric Oxide

Cases: Placebo, Renal Failure
Dr. David Standaert

Dr. Warren Zapol

Drug evaluation due
13 Neuropharmacology II: Anxiolytics and Antidepressants

Neuropharmacology III: Anticonvulsants

Cases: Lithium, Alcohol
Dr. David Standaert

Dr. David Standaert

14 Antimicrobials I

Antimicrobials II

Cases: Drug Allergy, Migraines
Dr. Robert Rubin

Dr. Robert Rubin

15 Chemotherapy I

Chemotherapy II

Cases: Folate, Oral Hypoglycemics
Dr. Donald Kufe

Dr. Donald Kufe

16 Opioids I

Opioids II

Cases: Cancer - Analgesia, Drug Abuse
Dr. Carl Rosow

Dr. Carl Rosow

17 Final Exam   Tell A Friend