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What is pharmacology?

Pharmacology is a vibrant area of biomedical science that studies drug action (how medicines and other drugs work and are processed by the body). Drug action affects all of us in one way or another, through the medicines that we take, the effects alcohol or caffeine consumption or the inadvertent exposure to poisons and environmental pollutants, as well as many other aspects of modern life such as drug addiction and drug abuse including the abuse of drugs in sport.
 
Pharmacology is crucial for discovering new medicines to help fight diseases such as cancer, depression, heart disease and infectious diseases. It is essential for improving the effectiveness and reducing the unwanted side effects of medicines, understanding why individuals differ in the way they respond to certain drugs, and why some others cause addiction.

As a scientific discipline, pharmacology lies at the heart of biomedical science, linking together chemistry, physiology (the normal function of living organisms) and pathology (the malfunction of living organisms that leads to disease). Pharmacologists work closely with a wide variety of other disciplines that make up modern biomedical science, including neuroscience, molecular and cell biology, immunology and cancer biology, to name just a few.
 
Pharmacological knowledge and understanding improves the lives of millions of people across the world by providing vital answers at every stage of the discovery, testing and clinical use of new medicines. The ability to use medicines effectively, to maximise their benefit and minimise risk and harm, relies on this knowledge. As new diseases emerge, and older medicines - most notably antibiotics - no longer work as well, the contribution of pharmacology to finding better and safer medicines becomes all the more vital.



 
Pharmacologists therefore make a unique contribution to today’s science and tomorrow’s medicines, in universities, government agencies, the health service, and the pharmaceutical and biosciences industries. Pharmacologists often work in academia, industry or healthcare environments but many pharmacologists go on to have careers outside the lab, in fields such as scientific publishing, teaching, science communication, science policy and regulatory roles in the drug discovery industry.