Introduction to Pharmacology and Toxicology
This page was last updated on 30/12/2015.
MEDSCI 204 is the first Pharmacology MEDSCI paper that the University of Auckland has to offer, it covers basic pharmacological principles such as pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics while briefly glossing over a minute amount of anatomy and physiology. This paper is compulsory for Pharmacy, Pharmacology and Medicinal Chemistry degrees. It is additionally a pre-requisite for all Stage III Pharmacology papers.
This paper originally did not have any prerequisites, which meant that you could take it without doing other MEDSCI papers such as MEDSCI 142 and 205 beforehand. Again, the amount and detail of anatomy and physiology that is covered in this paper is not extensive and is taught from scratch by the lecturers anyway, so you need not to worry about it too much.
MEDSCI 204’s assignments involve the writing of a research paper based around a selection of drugs, talking about their pharmacodynamics/kinetic principles, adverse reactions, cost, ethics, etc… Referencing for this assignment is done via the Vancouver style (there are tutorials on how to reference using Vancouver offered by the UOA library services and it is highly recommended to attend them).
Assignment 1 (worth only 5%) required you to type up an introduction about a drug of your choosing (these are the drugs you can choose to do your entire Assignment 2 on) and submit it via Turnitin. There is a rubric which you can follow in order to maximize your grade for this assignment.
Assignment 2 (worth 15%) requires you to finish off the rest of the research paper you started in Assignment 1, although you can choose to change the drug that you are writing your assignment on. Like Assignment 1, there is a marking rubric which you can follow in order to try and get the best possible marks. This assignment was PeerMarked via Turnitin in the previous year (2015). This peermarking may cause some panic in some people since you are trusting 15% of your final grade in MEDSCI 204 to 5 random classmates that have also done their assignments on the same drug of your choosing. The PeerMarking is ‘moderated’ by the course coordinator in order to eliminate any marking anomalies and outliers to ensure that everyone is marked fairly and equally. Every year, there has been complaints about the PeerMarking quality and every year, little has been done.
The content of the paper itself isn’t exactly difficult. There is quite a bit to remember especially when it comes to drug names; their basic mechanism of action; their contraindications and adverse effects; etc. These are to be expected in a pharmacology paper in the first place. The first half of the paper is considered easier than the second half of the paper by majority of the students that take this paper, and is claimed by some people to be one of the easiest MEDSCI papers (not including the general education MEDSCI papers).
There are no physical labs to attend. Instead, there were online labs with readings and practice tests to complete (but completion of these did not count towards your final grade). The lab component from the online website was assessed in the MST, Lab test and the Final Exam. Everything which needed to be learned for the lab test should be provided online - excessive journal article readings are probably not required. The lab test is certainly possible to do extremely well in - the content tested was 'easy' in 2014.
This first topic introduced us to the terms that the following lecturers would use and was taught by Mr Liam Anderson in 2015. It covers basic principles such as “receptor theories” and “EC50 or Effective Concentration at 50% of the population”. It is important that you understand the concepts taught in this section as it provides the framework for a lot of information in pharmacology. When it comes to studying for this section, place heavy emphasis on understanding the dose-response curves and the graphs with regards to agonists and antagonists and how to calculate potencies without the need for a calculator.
Drugs and the ANS
This second section was taught by Associate Professor Michelle Glass in 2015. It covers some very basic anatomy and physiology of the ANS and then expands on the myriad of drugs and drug targets present in the ANS. This section allows you to incorporate some physiology with pharmacology as the content on this topic revolves around the different types of drugs that work on different receptors across the ANS. This section is considered one of the harder blocks in this paper due to the amount of memorization and rote-learning required, although it is important to know that all the content you need to know is in the slides.
ADME and Pharmacokinetics
This section was taught by Associate Professor James Paxton. This section is split into 4 smaller parts, each addressing one of the letters in ADME.
This is the final set of lectures covered before the Mid-semester test (also taught by James Paxton). This section tests your understanding of equations and applying concepts learned from the previous topic (ADME) into numbers where it is of actual use. This section only lasted for 2 lectures and is relatively simple and was taught very well. It is important that you are able to create and solve equations without the need for a calculator as in some years the test and exams required you to calculate some numbers without a calculator (No calculator allowed in exam, etc…).
Clinical Measurement of Drug Action
This is a very short block (only 1 lecture) taught by Professor Nick Holford which teaches you the basic concepts of biomarkers and surrogate endpoints with regards to pharmacological development. This is rather interesting topic as you can easily place the knowledge you gain from this brief series to the real world, especially when the media starts to ramble on about new drugs being developed.
Toxicity and Adverse Drug Reactions
This section was taught by Associate Professor Malcolm Tingle. This section contains lots of facts and figures about studies on drug toxicity and adverse effects. Testing of this section revolved more around the concepts surrounding toxicology and Malcolm does make it clear which figures and numbers you need to know
Series of Smaller topics
The next series of smaller topics was taught by Associate Professor Malcolm Tingle, Associate Professor James Paxton, Scott Graham, Associate Professor Bronwen Connor, Leslie Schwarcz, Deanna Bell, and David Newcombe
After the Toxicity and ADR section, the rest of the paper is broken up into lots of smaller topics:
Make a drug list. Type up a list of every drug that is important or relevant which has been mentioned. Include some information such as: its mechanism of action, its contraindications, its adverse effects (if any). This will help you out in the long run when studying for the test and exam – especially when its 12 midnight the night before the exam and you haven’t bothered memorizing the drug names and what they do.
Make an equation “cheat sheet”, now I know that you’re not allowed to bring one into the test or exam but it helps to make one for the Pharmacokinetics section of the paper just so that you can see the different equations used in pharmacology, side by side, rather than flipping through pages of the course guide every time you’re looking for something.
Don’t do the assignment in the last minute. It’s actually fairly easy to get a good mark for the assignment in this paper, IF YOU PUT IN THE TIME AND EFFORT REQUIRED. Your classmates that are marking your assignment will really appreciate it if you have a nicely done Assignment 2 and will make it more likely for them to give you 5/5s on the marking scheme.