Clinical pharmacologists on the COVID-19 frontline

For many doctors, in the UK and further afield, the emergence of a global pandemic has seen them seconded from their usual area and/or training to the COVID-19 effort. Clinical pharmacologists are no different.

As its Clinical Pharmacology Week, we thought we ought to hear from some of our clinical pharmacologists about what being seconded to the frontline has been like, and how their clinical pharmacology training and experience has played a role in the way they approached this new challenge.

A key part of clinical pharmacology training is becoming specialists in therapeutics and delivering new medicines to the NHS for patients.

Dr Anna Stewart, Specialty Trainee Registrar in Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics, Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospital NHS Trust, and member of the Society StR sub-committee outlined this and highlighted the importance of appropriate dosing:

When faced with a new disease with no established treatment, we have learned that clinical pharmacologists provide tremendous benefit to patients and the NHS.

As clinical trial experts in trial design, subject safety and trial delivery we can pave the way for new and emerging medicines.

Conventional drug development timelines do not fit well with the urgency of a global pandemic. As clinical pharmacologists, it has never been more important to get the correct dose to the right patient, at the right time, and at the best dose.

Ensuring appropriate dosing is something emphasised by many in the clinical pharmacology – and wider – community.

An important challenge Clinical Pharmacology can help with is how to address multimorbidity (the presence of two of more long-term health conditions) and polypharmacy (concurrent use of multiple medicines) in patients.

Dr Chris Threapleton, Specialty Registrar in Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics and General Internal Medicine, St George’s University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and Chair of the Society’s StR sub-committee, who is researching the best way to manage patients with complex polypharmacy in primary care, said:

During this pandemic, we haven't been treating COVID-19 in isolation. Many patients requiring admission to hospital have multiple medical conditions requiring many different medicines. I’ve learned the importance of the management of multimorbidity and polypharmacy in the inpatient population. As clinical pharmacologists, knowing how to manage these patients of all ages is key to our value in the NHS.

Many areas in education have had to make the switch to virtual training, teaching and assessments. This is something we’ve seen first-hand at the Society with the successful virtual transition of our Prescribing Safety Assessment (PSA), co-developed and delivered by MSC Assessment. Professor Emma Baker, Professor of Clinical Pharmacology and consultant at St George’s, University of London and St George’s Hospital and the Society’s Clinical Vice President, describes her experience:


In education, we’ve learned so many things so quickly about delivering education online. For example, last week I gave a webinar around the use of medicines to 200 GPs and the opportunity to access more people, but also people out there who are changing their roles shows that clinical pharmacologists are going to be more important than ever in making sure that people are prescribing the right medicines.

Finally, Dr Andrew Scourfield, Consultant in Clinical Pharmacology and General Internal Medicine, University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and member of the Society’s Clinical Committee outlines the versatility of clinical pharmacology:

COVID-19 was initially thought to be primarily a respiratory condition. However, it rapidly became apparent that it involved widespread inflammation that can affect both the liver, kidneys, as well as abnormal blood clotting.

Clinical pharmacology, as a non-organ based specialty is ideally placed, not only in the management of these individuals, but also on a wider scale in terms of the investigation and implementation of novel and existing therapies in the management of COVID-19.

Clinical pharmacology, and clinical pharmacologists, have played a crucial role in the COVID-19 pandemic. For more information about how you could become a clinical pharmacologist, please visit our careers pages.

To take part in our conversations during Clinical Pharmacology Week, please follow us on twitter @BritPharmSoc and join in via the hashtag: #ClinPharmWeek.

For more information about Clinical Pharmacology and how you can be involved, please email:

Published: 12 Oct 2020 in Society news