Medical Pharmacology


Course Objective

Learning objectives:
- the student understands the general mechanisms behind the actions and
adverse reactions of pharmaceutical compounds (pharmacodynamics) and can
explain these
- the student understands the principles behind the ‘receptor theory’
and is able to apply its mathematical workings to determine key
pharmacodynamic parameters (pD2, pA2, EC50)
- the student is able to describe and explain the ways in which
pharmaceutical compounds affect neural stimulus transfer in the central
and peripheral nervous system (system pharmacology) and to rationally
predict the effects of this on cell and/or organ function.
- the student can describe the processes driving the uptake,
distribution, degradation and excretion of pharmaceutical compounds
(pharmacokinetics) and the role these processes play in explaining the
actions of medications and their toxicity.
- the student can apply relevant mathematical calculations to derive
pharmacokinetic key parameters (bio-availability, distribution volume,
plasma elimination half-life, clearance) and the relationship between
these parameters and explain the dosing schedule of pharmaceutical
- the student is able to conduct a brief literature search as part of a
group and report findings according to academic standards.
- the student acquires practical experience in the preparation,
execution and reporting of experimental (pharmacological) research in a
laboratory setting.

Scientific thinking and research (Academic skills):
Academic attitude: the student conducts a literature research by
reading, analysing and critically reflecting on biomedical literature.
Research: the student independently sets up a scientific experiment,
plan and execute it by making use of the existing methodes, and
eventually analyse and evaluate the outcome of the experiment.
Academic writing: the student writes a scientific report of the own
experiments and present its data.
Presenting: the student presents and defend a scientifically solid
presentation of the own data.
Collaboration: the student collaborates with peers during the QBE and
practicals and solves problems with the team. In addition, the students
actively participates in the team and contributes significantly to the
end product of the group.

Course Content

Medical Pharmacology is the science that describes and explains the mode
of action of a drug in the body. For the Medical Pharmacology course,
the main goal is to obtain insight into the principles and basic
concepts of medical pharmacology. In addition, a special emphasis is put
on the pharmacology of the (central) nervous system, which closely
relates to the parallel course ‘Neurosciences’.

Theme 1: Drugs and receptors (pharmacodynamics)
The student is introduced to the concept of pharmacological mode of
action and drug target, main effect and adverse effects of drugs and the
influence of suggestion, known as the placebo effect. The importance of
these concepts in medical practice and in the process of the development
of drugs are discussed. In addition, the student gains insight into the
basic principles of pharmacodynamics with regard to the mechanism of
neuronal communication in the (central) nervous system, and the effects
and side effects of drugs that are targeted towards neurotransmitter
receptors in both the brain and periphery, and the physiological and
pharmacological meaning of receptor heterogeneity. Students are
encouraged to participate in an active manner by preparing themselves
for so-called flip-the-classroom sessions (FTCs) in small groups that
cover the concept of pharmacodynamics. Students participate in
practicals that are centered around the concept of effects of drugs on
organ functioning, organs isolated form laboratory animals, and
neurotransmitters. Students prepare themselves for these practicals and
present a short written report on the results obtained during the
practicals to their supervisors.
- Pharmacological mode of action and placebo effect
- Drug development
- Receptor theory and dose-response relation
- Receptor-effector relation

Theme 2: The fate of drugs in the body in health and disease
The student is introduced to the main concepts and basic principles of
pharmacokinetics as he/she gains insight into the absorption,
distribution, metabolism and elimination of drugs in the body. The
student is introduced to the concepts that are central to the working
mechanisms of drugs, drug-drug interaction, inter-individual variation,
drugs sensitivity and toxicity (“personalized medicine”). Students are
encouraged to participate in an active manner by preparing themselves
for the FTC session in small students group “Think for yourself & ask
the teacher” with themes that are centered around pharmacokinetics
- Resorption of drugs and passage through biological membranes
- Routes of administration
- Drugs distribution and volume of distribution
- Elimination of drugs
- Time-effect relation and dose schemes
- Variability in drug (re)actions

Question-based education (QBE)
In small groups, students will conduct a literature survey on the
pharmacology of selected drugs. The QBE is centered around the relation
between basic pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamics concepts and ideas,
with a focus on main mode of action, side-effects (adverse events) and
the pharmacotherapeutic use of the drug in disease states. Students
write a fact sheet of their inquiries. During the QBE, several feedback
moments with supervisors are scheduled. The quality of the fact sheet of
the group is reflected by grading performed by the respective

Teaching Methods

Lectures: approximately 26 hours
FTC sessions: 4 hours
Practicals: approximately 18 hours
QBE: approximately 8 hours
Response lectures: approximately 6 hours

Method of Assessment

The final mark is build up as follows:
• QBE assignment (15% of the final mark; is considered as a practical
• Exam (85% of the final mark)
In order to obtain the final mark, the QBE should be graded with a
minimal of 5.5. Practicals are mandatory.

Exam> written exam consisting of 5 separate questions each divided into
multiple open/and or multiple choice questions.


Literature: Drukarch & Wilhelmus’s Essentials in Pharmacology, lectures,
FTC sessions and practicals

Target Audience

Mandatory for second year BSc Biomedical Sciences

Custom Course Registration

VU-net: sign in for module, lectures and exam. CANVAS: sign in for QBE, FTC sessions and practicals

General Information

Course Code AB_1199
Credits 6 EC
Period P2
Course Level 200
Language of Tuition English
Faculty Faculty of Science
Course Coordinator dr. M.M.M. Wilhelmus
Examiner dr. M.M.M. Wilhelmus
Teaching Staff dr. M.M.M. Wilhelmus
C.A.M. Jongenelen BSc
dr. B. Drukarch
dr. L. Diergaarde
prof. dr. T.J. de Vries

Practical Information

You need to register for this course yourself

Last-minute registration is available for this course.

Teaching Methods Study Group*, Lecture, Practical*

*You cannot select a group yourself for this teaching method, you will be placed in a group.

Target audiences

This course is also available as: