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Studies & Degrees in Clinical Pharmacology

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Clinical pharmacology is a branch of biomedical science that concentrates on the therapeutic application of pharmaceutical drugs and their effect on humans. Usually, a pharmacologist would perform tasks like discovering and evaluating different substances with the purpose of treating diseases; modifying the chemical structure of existing substances in order to remove undesirable side-effects; testing newly manufactured drugs for their safety and possible use; examining other substances that have an influence on living organisms (i.e. poisons and pollutants); writing scientific reports on research, and other similar tasks.

A clinical pharmacologist is considered to be a specialist in pharmacology, who specializes in direct patient care. They are often responsible for patients with various medical problems, who are prescribed different medications that may not fit each other. Finally, clinical pharmacology also includes the study of pharmacogenetics – this is the clinical measurement of biological effects while taking into consideration the physiologic variances among different populations. For instance, age, genetics, previously occurring diseases, and use of other medications can affect how a drug is accepted by the body. Conclusions that have come from these and other factors are documented and analyzed to help physicians better anticipate adverse side effects among different groups.

Personal Qualities

  • Enjoy science and research
  • Good communication skills – ability to write reports, based on research
  • Analytical qualities combined with logical thinking
  • Able to work accurately and pay attention to detail
  • Problem-solving skills and a certain amount of science-related creativity
  • Excellent team player

Study Options

Clinical pharmacology is usually pursued by students at the postgraduate level. You should be highly committed to your education, as programs of clinical pharmacology do require a good first degree in Medicine, Biological Science, or Pharmacy. The degree would be highly demanding, and usually include subjects like the development of new medicines – including research strategy and the drafting of toxicological profile of new drug candidates, as well as predicting drug safety; human pharmacology – examining moral and regulatory requirements of study design in healthy human volunteer subjects; ethical and legal aspects; research methods, and many others.

You should be seeking for a program that will provide a good balance between lectures, directed self learning, and practical classes and tutorials that support the lecture material. External experts, getting involved with latest developments and innovations of the field are also crucial for such an area of study. Most programs in clinical pharmacology should also require an assessed coursework, based on real research.

Career Options

Careers prospects for clinical pharmacology graduates include the pharmaceutical industry, academia, Clinical Research Associates and Clinical Trials Coordinators, Regulatory and Safety Pharmacology, but you could also decide to specialize in one of the following disciplines – toxicology, kinetics, or drug interactions. Kinetics are concerned with the investigation of how drugs move through the organisms and examine how the body dissolves and absorbs a certain type of chemical substance, as well as its response to the substance. On the other hand, toxicologists study the negative effects that drugs and poisons can have on the body, while aiming to reduce or reverse side effects. Finally, the pharmacologists involved with drug interactions determine how a specific drug is made more or less effective by natural body chemicals and environmental factors.

If you decide to work in a research laboratory, you would definitely need a master’s or a doctoral degree in medicine or pharmacology, but prospects are very good, because there is a growing demand for pharmacologists to conduct experimental research on drugs for complicated diseases like cancer and AIDS. You would also have to train to use advanced testing equipment and computer programs; therefore, in order to be employable in this field, a great deal of commitment and perseverance would be required.