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The University of Southampton

BIOL2016 Pharmacology A

Module Overview

This module introduces pharmacology with particular emphasis on basic mechanisms of drug action.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

The aim of this module is to introduce pharmacology with particular emphasis on basic mechanisms of drug action.

Learning Outcomes

Learning Outcomes

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Describe the basic mechanisms of drug receptor interactions and the quantitative analysis of these interactions. This will include applying the law of mass action to drug receptor interactions and its use to obtain quantitative estimates of agonists and antagonists binding.
  • Outline the basis for grouping receptors into functional families and describe the basic structural features of a number of example receptor families.
  • Explain how drugs enter the body/tissues and some of the mechanisms responsible for their subsequent removal.
  • Describe the mechanisms of action of drugs interacting with the sympathetic nervous system with reference to autonomic processes such as control of blood pressure.
  • Describe the mechanisms of action of drugs that interact with the parasympathetic nervous system and their sites of action.
  • Give examples of drugs that act on the neuromuscular junction and describe their effects and their modes of action.
  • Explain the synthesis and metabolism of histamine and 5-HT and their actions on receptors in the periphery and the CNS.


The module will provide an introductory overview to the general principles underlying pharmacology and seek to reinforce these principles by referring to a number of specific drug and receptor systems. There will be particular focus on the absorption, distribution and elimination of drugs; on the mathematical interpretation of drug receptor interaction, on the mechanisms of action of drugs affecting the autonomic and somatic nervous system. The write-ups of practicals are varied and an important component involves writing a full practical in the style of a full scientific paper. This has a dedicated feedback session to school students in the fundamentals of scientific writing. This acts as an important primer for such activity in their subsequent academic assessments. Although, the module provides a self contained learning experience this module dovetails with BIOL2017 (Pharmacology B) for the specialist Pharmacology programmes.

Special Features

For features such as field trips, information should be included as to how students with special needs will be enabled to benefit from this or an equivalent experience. The course has a statutory requirement of 5 wet (lab based) and 3 dry (class based) practicals. These, where possible are designed to coincide with the lecture timetable. This dovetailing ensures theoretical concepts and practical experience synergize to allow a more effective learning outcome. In view of the experimental basis of Pharmacology and the importance of the practical skills base to the Pharmaceutical Industry the generation and analysis of data is a central component of the course. This is reflected in the exam in which a compulsory data manipulation question is core.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Lectures, lab based practical, class and paper based calculations (dry practicals), tutorials and independent study.

Practical classes and workshops26
Independent Study100
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Rang, Dale, Ritter and Moore (eds.) (2007). Pharmacology. 

British Pharmacology Society.



MethodPercentage contribution
Class practicals 25%
Written exam 75%


MethodPercentage contribution
Class practicals 25%
Written exam 75%

Linked modules

BIOL1007 OR BIOL1008 OR BIOL1010 OR BIOL1011 OR BIOL1012 OR BIOL1013 OR BIOL1014 OR BIOL1022 OR CHEM1039 OR CHEM1041 OR CHEM1043 OR CHEM1044 oOR CHEM1045 OR CHEM1031 OR CHEM1033 OR CHEM1035 OR CHEM1032 OR CHEM1034 OR CHEM1036

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