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Course Organiser

Dr Lesley MacVinish
Telephone: +44 1223 334034

Alternative contact: Undergraduate Office
Telephone: 01223 334000

Course Structure

The course consists of 3 lectures and 1 seminar or practical in most weeks. The lectures and seminars are delivered in the large Chemistry lecture theatre No. 1 (entrance opposite the Scott Polar Research Institute). Practical classes take place on Monday and Friday afternoons in the Department of Pharmacology.

Course Aims

The Mechanisms of Drug Action course aims to provide an understanding of the basic mechanisms of drug action at the levels of both drug-receptor interactions and the effects on body systems. Attention is focused not only on the current use of drugs, but also on a framework for evaluating future therapies.

Teaching Objectives

Practical experiments are held on Mondays or Fridays from 2 to 5 pm, they are designed to support and reinforce the lectures and provide an introduction to the experimental basis of the subject. How much you get out of the practical course will depend chiefly on the amount of effort you are prepared to put into it. In the practicals you are expected to display a small degree of manual dexterity, but more importantly you are asked to think.

By the end of the MODA course students should have:

  • Attained a core knowledge in basic pharmacology, and so laid a secure foundation in the principles of drug action to support future courses in medicine and veterinary medicine which they will carry with them into their professional careers
  • Developed their experimental and data analysis skills through a range of experiments carried out in the practical laboratories and attendance at demonstrations and supervisions.

Lecture Topics

  • Drug Interactions with Receptors and Ion Channels (5 lectures)
  • Pharmacology of Peripheral Neural Transmission (5 lectures)
  • Cardiovascular and Renal Pharmacology (6 lectures)
  • Pharmacokinetics, Drug Metabolism, and General Anaesthetics (5 lectures)
  • Pharmacology of Inflammation and Immunosuppression (6 lectures)
  • Chemotherapy (7 lectures)
  • Human Aspects of Cardiovascular and Renal Pharmacology (4 lectures)
  • Anthelmintics (2 lectures)
  • Aspects of Special Veterinary Pharmacology (2 lectures)
  • Ectoparasite Drugs (1 lecture)
  • Neuropharmacology (6 lectures)
  • Veterinary neuropharmacology (3 lectures)


The entire course is examinable. The format of the MODA examination is governed by an official Form and Conduct Notice issued by the Faculty of Biology. The contents of that Notice, current in summer 2005, were published in the Reporter dated 28 November 2001 and are reproduced below.

The examination will test knowledge and understanding of the material contained in the Mechanisms of Drug Action course, and will be in three sections, Sections I, II, and III. Sections I and III will together form a written paper, and Section II will be a practical paper. All three sections contribute to the Tripos mark in the proportions: Section I, 30%; Section II, 20%; and Section III, 50%.

Section I will be a written paper that lasts 90 minutes. Each question is compulsory. Section I covers the whole course in a Single Best Answer (SBA) format. Each question in Section I carries the same mark.

Section II will be a two-hour written practical examination. It will consist of two questions and will assess ability in data handing, numerical manipulation, and logical reasoning. Questions may be drawn from any part of the course and may include questions on quantification of receptor-ligand interactions, pharmacokinetics, and data handling. Each question will carry the same mark.

Section III will be a two-hour written paper. Candidates will be provided with a choice of at least six essay questions in Section III, and will be required to answer three. Each question in Section III will carry the same mark.

The 2nd MB qualification will be determined by performance in Sections I (75%) and II (25%) only.


In general, plagiarism can be defined as: the unacknowledged use of the work of others as if this were your own original work.

In the context of an examination, this amounts to: passing off the work of others as your own to gain unfair advantage.

A copy of the Faculty of Biology’s statement on plagiarism can be found here:

and the University’s statement here:
Further useful information can be found here.