Introduction to Pharmacology
The study of drugs or chemicals and the effects they have on living animals is called pharmacology. Pharmacologyexplains what drugs are, what they do to body functions and what the body does to them. Pharmacology also explains why a person may experience side effects when they take drugs and why there is such a wide spectrum of differences between drug actions in different people.
Everyone at one stage or another in life will rely on a pharmaceutical product, whether it is for themselves, a friend or a family member. Therefore it is useful to have a basic understanding of pharmacology.
What is a Drug?
A drug is a chemical that interacts with proteins in the body to affect a physiological function. This is the general idea behind all medicine. Once these chemicals are absorbed into the systemic circulation they bind with certain proteins and this changes the functioning of the cell slightly. For example, anticancer drugs bind to proteins on the surface of cancer cells this stimulates the cells to die. In this case cell death is the physiological action of the drug.
No drugs are specific to interacting with just one type of cell or one type of protein and this is what causes side effects. Again using an anticancer drug as an example, the medication works by binding to very rapidly dividing cells, such as cancer cells, however hair cells are also rapidly dividing and that is why one of the side effects of anticancer drugs is hair loss.
How do drugs work?
Our bodies are largely controlled by proteins. Proteins exist in many different forms in the body and have many different functions. Each protein has a specific function and is quite specific to the cell type that it acts on. For example, there are specific types of proteins called receptors. Receptors are embedded on the cell surfaces, there are different receptors for different types of cells. A liver cell will have different receptors than a cardiac cell. The receptor binds to other proteins and chemicals on the outside of the cell and this in turn creates a change in the functioning of the cell.
What do drugs do to the body?
Once the drug is bound to a protein it exerts a therapeutic effect on the body, this is the pharmacodynamics of a drug. There is an enormous list of different drugs and their actions in the body. Below are links to just some of the major treatment areas.
The pharmaceutical industry (or medicine industry) is the commercial industry that discovers, develops, produces, and markets drugs or pharmaceutical drugs for use as different types of medicine and medications. Pharmaceutical companies may deal in generic or brand medications and medical devices. They are subject to a variety of laws and regulations that govern the patenting, testing, safety, efficacy and marketing of drugs.
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