Study-Unit Description

Study-Unit Description


TITLE Overview of Drug Classes and Function

UM LEVEL 01 - Year 1 in Modular Undergraduate Course



DEPARTMENT Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics

DESCRIPTION This study-unit will introduce students to the classification and general actions of drugs used in pharmacological management. The topics covered will include the different types of drugs (conventional small molecules, biotherapeutics, gene therapy, vaccines etc), their pharmacological classification and how their modes of action contribute to disease management. The major drug classes including drugs acting on the cardiovascular, respiratory, nervous, intestinal, renal and reproductive systems, as well as antibiotics and drugs acting on pain, inflammation and oncological targets will be broadly discussed.

This will form a sound basis for a more detailed pharmacology of every drug class which will be delivered across several study-units, later on during the course.

Study-unit Aims:

- Introduce students to the pharmacological classification of drugs used in therapeutics, and distinguish between classification based on chemical structure, classification based on pharmacodynamic action, and classification based on disease targets;
- Explain the naming systems used for drugs, i.e. chemical, generic (e.g. the INN system) and tradename systems;
- Formulate a framework within which students can understand how drug classes may differ from each other, but may however exert similar actions through different mechanisms;
- Provide students with a groundwork which helps them to integrate drug function with drug class;
- Provide an overview of pharmacological actions and uses of major drug classes.

Learning Outcomes:

1. Knowledge & Understanding
By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:

- Explain different criteria on which drugs may be classified;
- Discuss the general therapeutic and adverse pharmacological actions associated with different drug classes;
- List different drug naming systems and identify to which system a given drug name applies;
- Discuss specialized drug classes such as biotherapeutic agents and gene therapy.

2. Skills
By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:

- Relate drug class to function and to target organ systems;
- Deduce the general actions of a drug from the class/es that it belongs to;
- Use the INN (international non-proprietary name) nomenclature system to identify the class of a drug, from its generic name.

Main Text/s and any supplementary readings:

Main text:

- Ritter JM, Flower RJ, Henderson G, Loke YK, MacEwan D, Rang HP. Rang & Dale's Pharmacology. 9th Ed. 2019. Elsevier.
- Articles which will be provided to students directly.

Supplementary readings:

- Satoskar RS, Rege NN, Bhandarkar SD. Pharmacology and Pharmacotherapeutics. 2015. Elsevier.
- Brunton L, Knollmann B, Hilal-Dandan R.Goodman and Gilman's The Pharmacological Basis of Therapeutics, 13th Ed. 2017. McGraw-Hill Education.


- Molecular pharmacology. Published by the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics.
- British Journal of Pharmacology. Published by the British Pharmacological Society.
- British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology. Published by the British Pharmacological Society.

STUDY-UNIT TYPE Lecture and Independent Study

Assessment Component/s Assessment Due Sept. Asst Session Weighting
Examination (2 Hours) SEM1 Yes 100%

LECTURER/S Matthias Azzopardi
Alison Brincat
Maria A. Cordina
Anthony Cutajar
Roger Ellul Micallef
Anthony Fenech
Janet Mifsud
Vanessa Petroni
Charles Scerri
Lorna West
Mark Zammit
Peter Zarb


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 description above applies to study-units available during the academic year 2022/3. It may be subject to change in subsequent years.