A pharmacologist practices the science of pharmacology, which is the study of drug, hormone , and chemical actions on biological systems. A pharmacologist must have knowledge in the sources, chemical properties, biological effects, and therapeutic uses of drugs. The pharmacologist must be multidisciplinary with experience and/or knowledge in experimental techniques such as analytical chemistry, biochemistry, cellular and molecular biology, genetics, immunology, medicinal chemistry, microbiology, pathology, and physiology. Pharmacologists can be subcategorized as doing biologic, industrial, human, or regulatory research.

Pharmacologists perform studies to examine drug interactions and define the mechanism involved in producing these interactions. In order to determine the mechanism of action of a particular drug, the pharmacologist may perform experiments on cellular in vitro systems. However, in order to identify the physiological, biochemical, or immunological response, it is often necessary to perform the experiments in in vivo experimental animal systems such as rats and mice (preclinical). Many pharmacologists consider toxicology to be an important part of pharmacologic research. Pharmacologists may perform this type of research in an academic (university) or industrial (drug company) environment.

Pharmacology training usually requires graduate degrees (M.Sc. and Ph.D.). Pharmacologists who study the therapeutic and toxic actions of drugs in humans are referred to as clinical pharmacologists. The clinical pharmacologist often has medical training (M.D.) with specialized training in the use of drugs in the treatment of disease. Clinical pharmacologists determine the correct routes of drug administration (e.g., oral or intravenous), assess their adverse effects, monitor drug levels, and establish therapies which prevent or treat overdoses as well as the consequences of interactions with other drugs. Some pharmacologists are involved with the administration of the rules and regulations relating to the development of new drugs. The pharmacologist unlocks the mysteries of drug actions, discovers new therapies, and develops new medicinal products, which inevitably touch upon all human lives.

SEE ALSO Biochemist ; Poisons ; Pharmaceutical Sales Representative

David S. Lester


Lewis, P. "The Clinical Pharmacologist in Drug Discovery and Development." British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology 42 (1996): 133–136.

Raskova, H. "How I Became a Pharmacologist." Pharmacology and Toxicology 80 (1997): 255–261.

University of Western Ontario, Faculty of Medicine. <> .


American pharmacologist who received, along with George Hitchings and James Black, the 1988 Nobel Prize in medicine for developing drugs to treat autoimmune disorders, leukemia, malaria, urinary tract infections, herpes, and gout. Elion's name appears on forty-five patents.

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