Pharmacological Therapy: Definition & History

Instructor: Veronika Polozkova

Masters in International Health. Lesson development experience on different levels from basic alimentary school to academic master level. Languages: English, Dutch, Russian

Who is the father of pharmacological therapy? What challenges do doctors face with pharmaceuticals today? Learn more about the history, regulations, and types of pharmacological therapy in this lesson.

So Many Medications to Choose From

Say you had a stressful day at work and now have a headache. To help manage it, you stop by the store for some aspirin. You see ten different brands on the shelf. Is the most expensive one the best? What's the difference?

With similar content available on the market and all the marketing pressure, it can be challenging to choose a specific one. The most expensive does not always mean the best; often we pay for the brand and not for the content.

This is the modern result of a long history of studying pharmaceuticals. Let's take a look at that history and an even more modern trend of choosing not to use them.

What is Pharmacological Therapy?

Pharmacology is the science of drugs. The term comes from the Greek words pharmakos, which means 'medicine' or 'drug'; and logos, meaning 'study'. Pharmacological therapy, therefore, deals with the making and use of drugs, and especially the effects of them on the body.

This therapy type can involve the use of one or multiple medicines and is studied in universities by medical and biomedical students. Training in pharmacology usually divides the subject into sub-disciplines like molecular, cardiac, infectious, chemical, and others.

There are many types of pharmaceuticals with different modes of use
Types of drugs

The History of Pharmacology

It is difficult to state when the first pharmacological therapy was implemented in practice. Its origin dates back to middle ages, but clinical pharmacology as we know it today started in the early 19th century.

It all began with a set of experiments on the effects of some plants on animals by several physiologists. However, it was only in 1847 that pharmacology became an official study.

What marked it was the appointment of the first professor in pharmacology, Rudolf Buchheim, at the Estonian University of Dorpat. Buchheim built the first laboratory for the study of drugs in his own home at his own expense.

Rudolf Buchheim

But Buchheim's hard work and his contribution was paved over in 1869 by his student Oswald Schmiedeberg, who achieved his medical doctorate by studying chloroform in blood. Schmiedeberg became a professor of pharmacology at the University of Strasbourg in 1872 and received financial support that his teacher never had.

This gave Schmiedeberg the ability to perform a set of experiments, publish his findings, and train doctors on a larger scale. He is now generally recognized as the founder of modern pharmacology.

Oswald Schmiedeberg is known as the father of pharmacology
Oswald Schmiedeberg

Principles of Pharmacology

Basic principles of pharmacology focus on the interaction and effect of drugs in the human body. Its findings are invaluable to medical professionals in prescribing the right medications while taking into account specific health problems or conditions. The overall goal is to keep people healthy and prevent or treat certain diseases.

Types of Pharmacological Therapy

In the modern world, there are many different kinds of medications available. For instance:

  • Drugs that can be bought at pharmacies and drugstores without a prescription, like aspirin and ibuprofen.
  • Drugs that have to be prescribed in accordance with medical protocols, like insulin and antibiotics.
  • Narcotics that can be prescribed by doctors only in special cases and under strict conditions, like morphine. These prescriptions are strictly determined by distribution and storage licenses and laws.

The dosage, intake frequency, and mode of intake of these varied types differ significantly. Some can be taken orally, others intravenously. Some have preventative qualities, like vitamins, others are meant to cure specific conditions. Pharmacology is therefore largely concerned with research and setting standards for the use of different drug types in therapy.

Vitamin pills are often preventative drugs

Medication or Lifestyle Change?

Though we have a lot to thank for pharmacological therapy, in recent decades there has been a growing question of whether using medication is always the best choice.

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