The pharm + tox lecture series: #1 - Pharmacy vs. pharmacology (plus toxicology!)

After much thought and careful inaction, I've decided to broaden the content of this site. On an approximately once-a-week basis, I'm going to drone incessantly on about pharmacology and toxicology, the scientific disciplines concerned with, quite appropriately, drugs and poisons.

First off, I need to stress to you a distinction of the utmost concern: pharmacology IS NOT pharmacy. Pharmacologists are not responsible for dispensing drugs at your local Walgreens or Shoppers Drug Mart. Although I've only recently finished up my pharmacology degree, I've already become intimately acquainted with the pain and suffering associated with trying to explain to just about everybody who asks what I've gone to school for that I do not, in fact, plan on opening up my own pharmacy any time soon.

Now that I've got that out of my system, let me break it down for you:

Pharmacology is the science concerned with (a) the fate of drugs in the body after you take/are given them and (b) the actions of drugs on the body. The branch of pharmacology concerned with (a) is called pharmacokinetics, while that concerned with (b) is called pharmacodynamics. Other branches include pharmacovigilance, pharmacoepidemiology, pharmacogenomics, pharmacoeconomics, clinical pharmacology, and agricultural pharmacology.

Pharmacy is a health profession concerned with the preparation and proper use of drugs. A pharmacist attempts to optimize the use of drugs to help make people better, while a pharmacologist attempts to understand how drugs actually work.

Toxicology is the science concerned with the adverse effects that chemicals have on living things, particularly people. It includes the detection and treatment of poisonings.

2 chemically inspired comments:

Anonymous said...

Your definition of a pharmacist leaves a lot to be desired. I don't think you've given nearly enough credit to the kind of training that pharmacists have.

A medical doctor isn't considered a microbiologist, physiologist, etc., but they are trained in the clinical application of these numerous said fields.

Likewise, a pharmacist isn't considered a pharmacologist, toxicologist, etc., but is trained in the clinical application of these fields.

As a pharmacologist, the scope of your training is much more focused and your expertise would be related to such (ie: There are a vast number of receptors in our bodies that aren't mentioned at all as in current practice, there is no clinical utilization) whereas a pharmacist as a clinician/practitioner requires a broader knowledge for clinical application to humans/animals/etc.

Chris said...

You're absolutely right.

Looking back, I was pissed off about having to explain to someone the difference between a pharmacist and a pharmacologist for the umpteenth time, and my attempt to settle this issue on my blog unfortunately came out as a slight against pharmacy.