University of Malta

Study-Unit Description
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TITLE Pharmacology G

LEVEL 04 - Years 4, 5 in Modular UG or PG Cert Course


DEPARTMENT Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics

DESCRIPTION This study-unit will review the pharmacology of drugs used in anaesthesia and expose the students to the various neurophysiological processes involved in addiction, depression and anxiolysis. It will also look at clinical concepts in the application of PK/PD in optimising regimens for the individual patient. It will also include computer aided learning sessions for the clinical applications of pharmacological principles.

Study unit aims:

i. To review the pharmacology of drugs used in anaesthesia.
ii. To expose the students to the various neurophysiological processes involved in addiction, depression and anxiolysis. To discuss the latest developments on the various pharmacological classes used to treat and control these processes including drugs of abuse, antidepressants, neuroleptics and sedative-hypnotics.
iii. Clinical concepts in the application of PK/PD in optimising regimens for the individual patient.
iv. Computer aided learning sessions (PCAL) and problem based learning interactive sessions for the clinical applications of basic pharmacological principles.

This study-unit will allow the students to provide a framework for the evaluation and interpretation of reports and medical literature, and the application of these principles to the selection of effective drug therapy, with the translation of pharmacological effect into an appropriate therapeutic effect. This unit will also provide the necessary tools, using evidence based medicine and problem based learning, for the students to correctly analyse the appropriate applications of any novel drugs, as they are introduced in clinical practice.


- Drugs of abuse and addiction; drug administration, absorption and metabolism; tolerance, withdrawal and dependence; behavioural effects of psychoactive drugs.
- Drug action: CNS depressants, stimulants, tricyclic antidepressants, hallucinogens, narcotics, volatile solvents, cannabis derivatives, designer drugs.
- Animal research: reward pathway; treatment strategies.
- Affective disorders; depression and bipolar disorders.
- Monoamine hypothesis of depression; animal models of depression.
- Antidepressant drugs: MAOIs, TCAs, SSRIs, novel drugs.
- Other therapies: ECT, lithium.
- Neuroleptics and schizophrenia.
- Sedative hypnotics and anxiolytic drugs.
- Barbiturates: mode of action, abuse, toxicity, tolerance and dependence.
- Benzodiazepines: structure, mode of action, receptors clinical use.
- Serotonergic drugs: 5HT receptor ligands.
- General anaesthetics: mode of action, classification, pharmacokinetics and side effects.
- Inhaled and injectable general anaesthetics.
- Local anaesthetics: mode of action at cellular level, receptor modulation, classification, pharmacokinetics and side effects.
- Analgesics: gate control theory; use of analgesics.
- Opioid analgesics: mode of action at cellular level, receptor modulation, classification, pharmacokinetics, side effects, tolerance.
- Interpatient variation in clinical pharmacokinetic and population kinetics.
- Therapeutic drug monitoring and computer software in clinical pharmacokinetics.
- Stereoselectivity in pharmacokinetics.
- PK/PD in clinical applications and in drug development and variable drugs.
- PCAL Computer added packages.
- Recombinant DNA Technology in clinical drug development.
- Clinical application of choice of analgesics (NSAIDS, opioids, non opioids).
- Clinical applications of drugs used in chronic respiratory and neurological disorders.
- Analytical pharmacology and the interpretation of chromatographic data in clinical setting.
- Clinical applications of drugs used in cardiovascular disorders and hypertension.
- Problem based learning in clinical gastropharmacology, oncology and endocrine therapy.


By the end of this study-unit, the student will be able to:
- Apply basic principles in the treatment and understanding of drugs used in anaesthesia
- Apply basic pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic principles in clinical situations and drug development
- Predict the patient response to drugs used in affective and related disorders
- Adopt a correct understanding of the pharmacology and selection of drugs in these conditions
- Use computer aided packages to apply pharmacological principles

Main texts:

• Humphrey P. Rang HP, Dale MM, Ritter JM, Flower R. Rang & Dale's Pharmacology. Churchill Livingstone. 6th Ed.
• Wecker L, Watts S, Faingold C, Dunaway G, Crespo L. Brody's Human Pharmacology. Mosby. 5th Ed.
• Rowland and Tozer. Clinical Pharmacokinetics and Pharmacodynamics. 4th Ed. Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.
• British National Formulary. Pharmaceutical Press.

• Brunton L, Lazo J, Parker K. Goodman & Gilman's The Pharmacological Basis of Therapeutics. McGraw-Hill Medical. 11th Ed.

Lecture notes
• Reid JL, Rubin PC, Walters MW. Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics (Lecture Notes). Blackwell. 7th Ed.
• Neal MJ. Medical Pharmacology at a Glance. Wiley-Blackwell. 6th Ed.


STUDY-UNIT TYPE Lecture and Practical

Assessment Component/s Resit Availability Weighting
Examination (3 Hours) Yes 100%


The University makes every effort to ensure that the published Courses Plans, Programmes of Study and Study-Unit information are complete and up-to-date at the time of publication. The University reserves the right to make changes in case errors are detected after publication.
The availability of optional units may be subject to timetabling constraints.
Units not attracting a sufficient number of registrations may be withdrawn without notice.
It should be noted that all the information in the study-unit description above applies to the academic year 2017/8, if study-unit is available during this academic year, and may be subject to change in subsequent years.

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