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Unit information: Mechanisms of Drug Action in 2020/21

Unit name Mechanisms of Drug Action
Unit code PHPH10015
Credit points 20
Level of study C/4
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Steve Fitzjohn
Open unit status Not open

A-Level Chemistry recommended


A-level Biology is not essential but students will be required to study basic cell biology during the unit

School/department School of Physiology, Pharmacology & Neuroscience
Faculty Faculty of Life Sciences


This unit provides students with a broad introduction to pharmacology. The unit includes an introduction to the physiology of the different cell types in the body and how drugs modulate their function. The nature of receptors as drug targets and the fundamental principles of drug-receptor theory are discussed. How drugs get into, get around, and get out of the body is also covered, along with the general principles of drug toxicology.

The aims are to provide students with knowledge and understanding of aspects of how drugs produce effects on biological systems, how they are processed by the body, how toxic effects are produced and how drugs are designed.


  • The physiology of the different cell types in the body and how drugs modulate their function
  • The nature of the interaction between drugs and their cellular receptors, and between drugs and the body as a whole
  • The adverse effects of drugs and drug toxicity
  • The basic ways in which drug action can be investigated, analysed and presented using tissue preparations

Intended learning outcomes

By the end of the unit, students will be able to demonstrate:

  • A thorough knowledge of each of the areas covered in the unit
  • The ability to analyse drug action using data from experimental preparations and knowledge gained from teaching activities
  • The ability to critically assess the work of others by peer marking

Teaching details

  • Lectures
  • Tutorials

Assessment Details

  • Timed assessment (End of unit) 70%
  • Coursework 30%

Reading and References

Recommended textbooks

It is not necessary to buy these books as multiple copies are available from the Lifezone. A handout is provided for most lectures but it is a good idea to consult a textbook to supplement your lectures notes and to clear up any problems you have with the lecture material. The three textbooks listed below are particularly relevant to the first year unit:

  • Rang and Dale’s Pharmacology, (7th Edition) JM Ritter, RJ Flower, G Henderson, YK Loke, D MacEwan and HP Rang. Churchill Livingstone.
  • Introduction to Toxicology (3rd edition), JA Timbrell, Taylor & Francis. Useful for toxicology lectures in Unit 1A.
  • An Introduction to Medicinal Chemistry (6th edition) GL Patrick, Oxford University Press. An excellent introduction to drug design and also contains an introduction to the biology you need to know.