module specification

CH5012 - Key Concepts in Pharmacology (2017/18)

Module specification Module approved to run in 2017/18
Module title Key Concepts in Pharmacology
Module level Intermediate (05)
Credit rating for module 30
School School of Human Sciences
Total study hours 300
214 hours Guided independent study
86 hours Scheduled learning & teaching activities
Assessment components
Type Weighting Qualifying mark Description
Unseen Examination 25%   1 x unseen exam (1 x 1.5 hours) in semester 1
Coursework 20%   1 x data handling coursework
Coursework 20%   Practical reports
In-Course Test 10%   2 x in-class progress tests (2 x 30 minutes)
Unseen Examination 25%   1 x unseen exam (1 x 1.5 hours) in semester 2
Running in 2017/18
Period Campus Day Time Module Leader
Year North Tuesday Morning

Module summary

This module will equip students with a fundamental understanding of pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics, and will also explore how pharmacological measurements are performed and the data interpreted.

Prior learning requirements

Cell and Molecular Biology CH4003

Module aims

The aims of this module are aligned with the qualification descriptors within the Quality Assurance Agency’s, Framework for Higher Education Qualifications.

The module aims to inform students on: 1) the physiology of the different receptor superfamilies; 2) drug absorption, distribution, metabolism and excretion; 3) how pharmacologists obtain experimental data, and interpret it.  In addition they will gain an appreciation of how physiological aspects of the human body and physicochemical properties of drugs explain the behaviour of different medicines.


  • Principles of pharmacodynamics
    Receptor theory; sites of drug action; types of receptor; receptor signalling; autonomic pharmacology; local mediators.
  • Principles of pharmacokinetics
    Absorption, distribution, metabolism and excretion; pharmacokinetics calculations.
  • Pharmacological quantification
    Analytical techniques in pharmacology including the background to protein-based assays such as Western blotting, flow-cytometry, fluorescence/con-focal microscopy, and isolated tissue preparations; consideration of assessing the clinical efficacy of medicines, and an insight into how to manipulate and interpret data. Experimental design and disease modelling (including knock down/in techniques, in vivo models, clinical studies); genotyping for the provision of tailoring therapies to specific patient cohorts; concept of functional assays for specific end-point analysis

Learning and teaching

Lectures will be followed by tutorial sessions to provide opportunities for ‘active engagement’ and to reflect on what has or has not been understood during the sessions.  In-class verbal feedback will be provided and students encouraged and directed towards relevant subject matter material.  The tutorial sessions will include numerical problems with emphasis on the principles to solve problems of various types as well descriptive/discussion elements.  Students will be expected to prepare in advance for these sessions (30 hours - directed).

Workshops will enhance understanding of the action of drugs in the human body over a period of time, including the processes of absorption, distribution, localization in tissues, biotransformation and excretion.  Peer – peer interactions will be encouraged via group working thus developing communication, data handling and interpretation skills.  This will culminate in the submission of a summative assessment consisting of an individual piece of data handling coursework which will include a discussion section to encourage critical thinking.  Students will be directed towards a resource centre within Weblearn with the expectation that this will be utilised for completion of the coursework (30 hours - directed).

The practical session will stress the importance of organisational proficiency by group working and will augment practical skills in order to produce reliable experimental data.  Students will be expected to interpret the experimental data within context.  This session will be summatively assessed via submission of  a completed proforma and will be directed towards relevant literature in order to complete the assignments (10 hours – directed).

To develop and enhance student engagement a series of progress tests (quizzes) will be provided with a mixture of both formative and summative assessments.  Quizzes designed for formative assessment will be provided with ‘instantaneous’ feedback and the time constrained summative assessments will only be available once the formative elements have been completed.  Background links and literature linked to quizzes will be provided via Weblearn (resource centre) and the students will be expected to utilise this when completing the on-line (formative) quizzes (20 hours - directed).

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module, a student will be able to:

  1. Demonstrate an appreciation of receptor biology.
  2. Understand the molecular mechanisms involved in receptor signalling pathways
  3. Describe different chemical mediators and their functions.
  4. Show an understanding of the principles of autonomic nervous system physiology.
  5. Predict the fate of specified drugs and routes of delivery using knowledge of pharmacokinetics.
  6. Understand the quantitative methods with which drug actions are measured
  7. Critically evaluate methodologies in peer-review publications.

Assessment strategy

The module will be summatively assessed by 2 unseen written exams (one at the end of each semester – 25% each), 1 data handling coursework (20%), 2 x practical reports (20%) and 2 in-class progress tests that aim to facilitate student learning at the mid-semester stage (10%). 

Both the unseen written exams at the end of each semester will examine the specific material covered during that particular semester (e.g. exam 1 will cover material between TW 2-13 and exam 2 will cover material between TW 16-27). The end of semester exams will be comprised of MCQs, SAQs and LAQs and will last for 1.5 hours.

The two in-class progress tests will take place halfway through each semester (TWs 10 and 23) and will comprise of a short, 30 minute test containing a mixture of MCQs and SAQs. Although these tests are summative (10% of the overall assessment), students are expected to use these progress tests as a way to consolidate the teaching material covered at the halfway point of the semester. For semester 1, this will be the material covered between TWs 2-8 and for semester 2, the material covered between TWs 16-22.

A data handling exercise (coursework, 20%) will summatively assess the student ability to interpret and manipulate computer simulated pharmacokinetic data.  This will be preceded by exercises designed to provide formative feedback.

Two practical reports on pharmacology and biopharmaceutics, respectively (Total 20%) will be submitted to assess the ability to acquire, manipulate and interpret experimental data. This element will provide a summative assessment.

To pass the module, students need to achieve a minimum aggregate mark of 40%.  There will be an attendance requirement for the practical sessions. If the module is passed on reassessment, then the maximum mark awarded will be 40%.

Assignment Learning Outcomes
Semester 1 exam (1.5 hours) 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
1 x data handling coursework 4,6
2 x progress tests 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9
2 x practical reports 3, 4, 6, 7, 8
Semester 2 exam (1.5 hours) 6, 7, 8, 9



Core Texts
• Rang, H.P., Dale, M.M., Ritter, J.M., Rod J. Flower, and Henderson, G (2016). Rang & Dale's Pharmacology , 8th Edition. London: Churchill Livingstone.
• Ritschel, W.A. and Kearns, G.L. (2009). Handbook of Basic Pharmacokinetics including Clinical Applications, 7th Edition. Washington D.C.: American Pharmacists Association.

Review Articles
• Thomson, A. (2004).  Back to basics: Pharmacokinetics.   The Pharmaceutical Journal, 272, pp.769 – 771.

Online resources
• (Great Pharmacological discoveries)
•  (GlaxoWellcome Pharmacology guide)
• (Pharmacokinetic Simulations)
• (literature data base)