Pharmacology vs Pharmacy

Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

This lesson will offer a brief history of pharmacology and pharmacy, and define important terminology such as pharmacology, clinical pharmacology, pharmacy, toxicology, and posology.

Similar Terminology

You know how engineers who design cars need to understand the mechanics of the car and mechanics needs to understand a bit about how cars are engineered?

Even so, a mechanic isn't an auto engineer and an auto engineer isn't a mechanic. It's just that their fields have a lot of things in common and components that overlap.

This lesson will also include a lot of words that overlap somewhat but are still stand-alone terms.

You'll soon see what I mean as we define and briefly explore the history of pharmacology and pharmacy.

Pharmacology Vs. Pharmacy

The combining form pharmaco-, as in pharmacology, comes from the Greek pharmakon, which means drug or potion. If we use this combining form in front of another part of a compound word, we know we're dealing with something that has to do with drugs.

With that in mind, pharmacology is commonly referred to as the study of drug action. But more specifically, pharmacology is the study of how chemicals interact with a living organism in order to produce their effects.

A specific subset of pharmacology called clinical pharmacology refers to the use of all pharmacological knowledge, especially the therapeutic effects of drugs to prevent and treat disease in patients.

People who study the actions of drugs are called pharmacologists.

Pharmacology is related to but is not the same as pharmacy, which is the science and art of collecting, preparing, standardizing, and dispensing drugs. Individuals who prepare and dispense medication are called pharmacists.

Both pharmacology and pharmacy also encompass toxicology and posology.

Toxicology is the study of the effects of poisonings and drugs overdoses as well as their detection and treatment.

Posology is the study of drug dosages. To help you remember that posology is the study of drug dosages, just think of the fact that pos- sounds like dos-.

Let's learn a little bit more about pharmacology and pharmacy.

The Early History

The study and use of all sorts of compounds for the benefit of human health goes back millennia.

Otzi, a man from the Copper Age, carried a fungus with him that may have been used for medicinal purposes.

From ancient Egypt to China, people collected and even wrote books on the use of herbs that were purported to treat a wide variety of ailments. Alas, many of these compounds were either completely ineffective or actually poisonous.

In fact, in the 18th century, Dr. William Withering, the man who discovered that the Foxglove plant could treat dropsy (edema), recognized that despite its beneficial therapeutic effects, it can be quite toxic if given in the wrong amounts.

People very slowly but surely recognized that the preparation and study of drugs, dosages, and their actions and effects in and on the body was more complex than previously imagined.

Modern History

And although some aspects of pharmacology and pharmacy have been practiced by people for thousands of years, the modern field of pharmacology is credited with being established by Dr. Oswald Schmiedeberg.

Dr. Oswald Schmiedeberg

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account