The Discipline of Pharmacology studies and teaches how drugs, medicinal and recreational, legal or illegal, synthetic or natural, beneficial or potentially toxic, interact with our body.

Clear cup of pills

Pharmacology is an experimental and clinical science that deals with the interactions between living systems (human and animal) and drugs of all kinds, whether therapeutic or otherwise. Essentially as chemicals that affect the functions of our body, drugs are used for a variety of purposes in the health care context. These include:

  • to improve health and quality of life
  • to treat and prevent diseases (as medicines)
  • as a research tool, to further explore body functions.

Broad application and influence

The Discipline of Pharmacology integrates knowledge from many fields, including physiology, biochemistry, chemistry, pathology, genetics, physics, mathematics and epidemiology, to teach:

  • quality use of medicines, in the health-professional courses of medicine, dentistry, nursing, and physiotherapy
  • pharmacological sciences, in health and medical sciences courses.

The discipline is also heavily involved in research, supported by national and international funding bodies, and many of its members serve on various high-level committees. These include: state and federal government medicines advisory committees; national pharmacology and health professional colleges committees; and drug information advisory committees.

Discipline of Pharmacology educators also play prominent roles in the design and delivery of curriculum content in the undergraduate and postgraduate courses they teach into.

Significant consulting and contracting expertise

The discipline has a wide variety of expertise in areas ranging from whole-organism pharmacology to molecular pharmacology and toxicology. Staff also have expertise in behavioural neuroscience, and contribute to the Drug and Alcohol Services South Australia World Health Organisation (WHO) Collaborating Centre for research into the treatment of drug and alcohol problems.

We assist organisations who wish to draw on this knowledge and capability through consulting or contract research and testing. As part of the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences; we contribute to several areas of inquiry. For more information, see the faculty’s areas of research.

Extensive undergraduate and postgraduate teaching

The Discipline of Pharmacology teaches into the:

Wide-ranging research

Members of the discipline broadly investigate: how drugs work; why they work; why, in some people, they don’t work and can cause harm; and how to prescribe drugs rationally. They conduct basic and clinical research related to: 

  • pain
  • addiction
  • drug abuse
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • transplantation medicine
  • gut diseases
  • depression
  • cancer chemotherapy
  • infectious diseases
  • behavioural and social neuroscience.

These explorations in turn are underpinned by research involving the principles of: deprescribing; pharmacogenetics and genomics; neuroscience; molecular toxicology; immunology; drug metabolism and transport; and precision medicine.