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Class Progress
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Chapter Listing

Basic Pharmacology 1 - DEMO


Pharmacology is a science that draws on a multitude of other sciences such as chemistry, biology, microbiology, research, and others. As a basic foundation to understanding pharmacology and the medications that are defined and presented, there are four terms needing to be understood: 11

  • Drug - this is "…any chemical that can affect living processes".
  • Pharmacology - is "…the study of drugs and their interactions with living systems".
  • Clinical Pharmacology - we are the most familiar with this term, it is "…the study of drugs in humans".
  • Therapeutics/Pharmacotherapeutics - "…the use of drugs to diagnose, prevent, or treat disease or to prevent pregnancy". This definition defines all of the working foundations concerned with the medical use of and a prescription for drugs in healthcare.
  • Therapeutic Objective - Prescribed medications should have the most benefit for the patient with the absolute minimum harm to the patient.

After gaining a good working understanding of the broad science of pharmacology - knowing the principle standards for the drugs used in medicine will give the practicing nurse a foundation for the way that drugs are developed to treat diseases. Knowing that when drugs are developed, the clinical researchers attempt to create an 'ideal' drug (or as ideal as possible) that would serve to treat the patient and their illness. Although there can be no 'ideal' drug - researchers use the rule of "The Big Three" - Effectiveness, Safety, and Selectivity:11

  • Effectiveness in medications describes that the medication does the job it was designed to do. As an example, antibiotics are designed to attack and kill certain bacteria and mycoplasms, if they are prescribed for viral infections, they are ineffective.
  • Safety signifies that the person who ingests the medication will not be harmed or killed. The aim is to create a drug that kills the micro-organism it was designed to kill; not the patient.
  • Selectivity is defined as having the effect that it was meant to and no other. This is not totally possible, as there are side effects seen with all medications. The aim is to keep the side effects at a minimum. For example, muscle relaxer medications aim to relax muscle cramps, spasms, pain; however, they are having the side effect of making the patient drowsy as well.

There are other considerations that medications must address when being prescribed to patients. It is important that drugs be able to have a reversible action if an overdose or other adverse reactions occur (such as allergies or reactions with other medications). There should also be certain predictability with medication when prescribed to the population. Although every person may react slightly differently to the same medication, clinical studies should be able to develop therapeutic ranges that are predictable over the population. Prescribed medications should be easy to take by the patient. Route of the medication, number of doses per day should be taken into account as compliance for completing the medication will go down if the medication is not easy to ingest or if there are too many dosages or numbers of pills to be taken during the day or at one time.

Properties of the ideal medication. Medications should have the following characteristics:

  1. A. Not be adversely interactive with other medications or substances. As a rule, most medications that do interact with other medications tend to enhance the medication's effect (such as narcotics being enhanced in effect with alcohol ingestion), or reduced effectiveness such as some antibiotics can be reduced with certain foods.
  2. Be affordable. Recently we have seen an enormous increase in medication costs resulting in some pharmaceutical companies getting fined or CEOs being jailed for price gouging.23  Another reason for the high price of some medications is when they are new on the market, the high cost of developing, testing, and researching must be recouped.46
  3. Have stability in its chemical make-up. The binders and the active ingredients in the medication should be stable to deliver the same amount of active ingredients with each dose. Medications will have expiration dates to show when the medication may not be delivering the exact dosage intended due to chemical degradation. 
  4. Have a simple name for the patient to remember. As a rule, the brand name of the drug is easier to remember and the generic is usually harder to remember as this is long and complex.11
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