Which of the following statements about pharmacology is true?
“X is a medication” or “X is part of a group of medications called X” is a statement about what is actually known as pharmacology. That means just what it says, which is that there are different types of medications, and some medications act differently on different people, or they may act in ways that are similar to other medications. The fact that some medications do not work at all well, or that some medications may act very differently on different people does not mean that those meds are “true” drugs–they are simply called pharmacology.
“X can be compared to Y because it works pharmacology-wise!!!” but this explanation is not very accurate either. This example is an anecdotal basis, and the comparison would be better described as a point of reference along which a student could build a stronger educational foundation. By basing primarily on anecdotal research, or on statements made by well-meaning friends, and doctors, the student is rarely presented with the complete picture of how medical practices and medications actually work. The entire subject of pharmacology is one that requires scientific research and analysis.
“X will be safer than Y”, but this also is not correct. To illustrate, taking aspirin for cardiovascular events is considered safer than not taking aspirin; but aspirin has certain properties which may cause stomach irritation and ulcers in some people. In this case, the dosage of aspirin needs to be adjusted accordingly. In another example, the risks of the particular medication under study are very low when taken as recommended; but the abuse potential is very high. Again, the dosage of the medication has to be adjusted.
“The results of clinical trials are what drives medication administration”. However, there is a great deal of evidence that these results are largely driven by factors such as the financial support for the trial, the type of patients included, the type of data reporting method used, and the results obtained from those trials. As mentioned above, there are many factors involved, and even a single bad study could skew the results significantly. Therefore, while strong evidence-based guidelines can help to mitigate the dangers of prescribing unsafe and ineffective medications, strong evidence-based guidelines cannot eliminate the driving force of personal preferences.
“There is no way to predict how a drug will behave in any patient”. This answer can be partly true, since it is theoretically impossible to know the precise effects which medicine will have in any individual patient. But even taking into account the possible influence which the primary factor has on whether the medicine will be effective or ineffective, it is not a conclusion which is consistent with the others. If there is a strong consensus concerning the existence of a primary factor which drives medication administration, there is no basis which prohibits researchers from attempting to discover and measure additional factors which could have an effect on efficacy.
“Pharmacology has shown that most common and successful medications have common molecular structures”. Although this is true, it is important to note that although these drugs have common structures, they also have very variable metabolic patterns. This variation is probably the biggest reason why medications that lack metabolism-enhancing capabilities frequently fail to produce effective results in clinical trials.
“The precise action which a drug takes depends on the particular metabolite which it interacts with”. Although this statement is true, it is also important to note that it is highly dependent upon the particular drugs involved. For example, it has been proven that the effectiveness of aspirin depends on whether or not it follows it’s pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics rules. In addition to this, it has been shown that even common medications like penicillin interact very differently depending upon whether they are administered intravenously or intramuscularly. Thus, it is extremely important that medical professionals carefully consider all the interactions that could occur between various medications before deciding which one should be prescribed.
“Pharmacology research in recent years has concentrated more on understanding which of the many possible molecular interactions may result in a particular drug’s effectiveness”. Based upon this information, it can be concluded that this particular statement is true. However, it must also be kept in mind that very little is known regarding any particular molecular interaction at the moment. As such much of the pharmacological research which has been done up until now has only focused on attempting to understand which of the many possible molecular interactions might result in the effectiveness of a particular drug. In short, much of the current pharmacology research is anecdotal research.