MEDSCI 204 : Pharmacology and Toxicology

Medical and Health Sciences

2023 Semester Two (1235) (15 POINTS)

Course Prescription

A solid grounding in the principles underlying pharmacology and toxicology, including the nature of drug targets, their interaction and response (pharmacodynamics), the fate of drugs within the body (pharmacokinetics), toxicity classification and testing, poisons and antidotes, adverse drug reactions, selective toxicity, drug discovery and development. Selected drug examples will be studied to illustrate key principles of clinical pharmacology.

Course Overview

The science of the safe and effective use of drugs, pharmacology and toxicology are integrative sciences, encompassing disciplines from genetics to biochemistry to physiology. 

MEDSCI 204 teaches concepts and capabilities through lectures, interactive workshops, practical laboratories, and related assessments. 

The test and/or exam may be held in person. 

Course Requirements

Prerequisite: CHEM 110, MEDSCI 142, and 15 points from BIOSCI 106 or 107

Course Contacts
Course Director: Deborah Young
Course co-coordinator: Leslie Schwarcz
Course co-coordinator: Rachel Cameron

Capabilities Developed in this Course

Capability 1: Disciplinary Knowledge and Practice
Capability 2: Critical Thinking
Capability 3: Solution Seeking
Capability 4: Communication and Engagement
Capability 5: Independence and Integrity
Capability 6: Social and Environmental Responsibilities
Graduate Profile: Bachelor of Science

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this course, students will be able to:
  1. Explain the nature and classification of types of drug targets; receptor-ligand relationships and signal transduction systems; agonism and antagonism; potency and efficacy; dose/concentration-response relationships; time-course of drug action. (Capability 1)
  2. Explain the role of input, distribution, and elimination processes on drug concentration and explain how physicochemical properties of drugs relate to pharmacokinetic principles. (Capability 1)
  3. Explain the patient and environmental factors that influence pharmacokinetics, including the problems encountered with the use of drugs in selected diseases and populations. (Capability 1 and 2)
  4. Explain the role of exposure, concentration and time on toxicity and its consequent impact on biochemistry and the clinical effectiveness of drugs. (Capability 1 and 2)
  5. Describe the multidisciplinary pathway of drug discovery and its application to the development of novel therapies. (Capability 1)
  6. Demonstrate competency of a selected range of skills, including good laboratory practice and safety procedures, observation and measurement, precision and accuracy, calculations, data analysis and interpretation, scientific writing. (Capability 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5)
  7. Use critical evaluation to identify the essentials of scientific information in written reports, and apply these skills to contribute knowledgeably to public debates around the safe and effective use of medicines. (Capability 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6)


Assessment Type Percentage Classification
Coursework 45% Individual Coursework
Test 15% Individual Test
Final Exam 40% Individual Examination
Assessment Type Learning Outcome Addressed
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
Final Exam

To pass:

  • Students must achieve at least 49.5% of the total marks for the course (i.e., coursework, test, exam). 
  • Students must attend four compulsory workshops. 
Extensions and exemptions must be arranged with the course coordinators prior to due dates. 

Workload Expectations

This course is a standard 15 point course and students are expected to spend 10 hours per week involved in each 15 point course that they are enrolled in.

For this course, you can expect 3 hours of lectures per week, a 2-hour workshop or laboratory practical per fortnight, 1 hour of reading and thinking about the content, and 4-6 hours of work on assignments and/or test preparation. 

Delivery Mode

Campus Experience & Campus Experience

Attendance is required at scheduled activities including workshop/labs to complete components of the course.
Attendance on campus is required for the test.
Lectures will be available as recordings. Other learning activities including workshops/labs will not be available as recordings.
The course will not include live online events including group discussions.
The activities for the course are scheduled as a standard weekly timetable.

Learning Resources

Course materials are made available in a learning and collaboration tool called Canvas which also includes reading lists and lecture recordings (where available).

Please remember that the recording of any class on a personal device requires the permission of the instructor.

Powerpoint slides delivered at the lectures will be provided to students electronically through Canvas. Presentations may be modified prior to delivery at the discretion of each lecturer. 

Workshop/lab resources will be provided through Canvas. 

Supplemental reading is available via the Talis Reading List.

Student Feedback

At the end of every semester students will be invited to give feedback on the course and teaching through a tool called SET or Qualtrics. The lecturers and course co-ordinators will consider all feedback and respond with summaries and actions.

Your feedback helps teachers to improve the course and its delivery for future students.

Class Representatives in each class can take feedback to the department and faculty staff-student consultative committees.

SETs do not always meet the threshold for significance, but when feasible staff look for themes as part of their review of the course. Feedback to class reps throughout the term is also considered. 
students appreciate the organisation of the course; the availability of a single, course email; and feel that assessments align with the learning outcomes of the course. 

Academic Integrity

The University of Auckland will not tolerate cheating, or assisting others to cheat, and views cheating in coursework as a serious academic offence. The work that a student submits for grading must be the student's own work, reflecting their learning. Where work from other sources is used, it must be properly acknowledged and referenced. This requirement also applies to sources on the internet. A student's assessed work may be reviewed against online source material using computerised detection mechanisms.

Science is collaborative and students are encouraged to discuss concepts but not share written work that will be submitted for marks for individual assessments. The work you submit must be your own, in your own words, and where appropriate include references. Copying from shared notes, i.e. notes prepared with other students, may lead to academic misconduct proceedings. 

Class Representatives

Class representatives are students tasked with representing student issues to departments, faculties, and the wider university. If you have a complaint about this course, please contact your class rep who will know how to raise it in the right channels. See your departmental noticeboard for contact details for your class reps.

Contact details for class representatives will be available on the course Canvas site. There are two staff-student consultative committee meetings a term, and class reps are responsible for collating student feedback and liaising with teaching staff before attending the meeting. This is a good opportunity to check in with each other, though all students are encouraged to contact staff throughout the term.

Inclusive Learning

All students are asked to discuss any impairment related requirements privately, face to face and/or in written form with the course coordinator, lecturer or tutor.

Student Disability Services also provides support for students with a wide range of impairments, both visible and invisible, to succeed and excel at the University. For more information and contact details, please visit the Student Disability Services’ website

Special Circumstances

If your ability to complete assessed coursework is affected by illness or other personal circumstances outside of your control, contact a member of teaching staff as soon as possible before the assessment is due.

If your personal circumstances significantly affect your performance, or preparation, for an exam or eligible written test, refer to the University’s aegrotat or compassionate consideration page

This should be done as soon as possible and no later than seven days after the affected test or exam date.

Learning Continuity

In the event of an unexpected disruption, we undertake to maintain the continuity and standard of teaching and learning in all your courses throughout the year. If there are unexpected disruptions the University has contingency plans to ensure that access to your course continues and course assessment continues to meet the principles of the University’s assessment policy. Some adjustments may need to be made in emergencies. You will be kept fully informed by your course co-ordinator/director, and if disruption occurs you should refer to the university website for information about how to proceed.

The delivery mode may change depending on COVID restrictions. Any changes will be communicated through Canvas.

Possible changes include the use of live Zoom workshops with small group work in break-out rooms (compulsory attendance), and alterations to the format and/or weighting of assessments, including the exam.

Student Charter and Responsibilities

The Student Charter assumes and acknowledges that students are active participants in the learning process and that they have responsibilities to the institution and the international community of scholars. The University expects that students will act at all times in a way that demonstrates respect for the rights of other students and staff so that the learning environment is both safe and productive. For further information visit Student Charter


Elements of this outline may be subject to change. The latest information about the course will be available for enrolled students in Canvas.

In this course students may be asked to submit coursework assessments digitally. The University reserves the right to conduct scheduled tests and examinations for this course online or through the use of computers or other electronic devices. Where tests or examinations are conducted online remote invigilation arrangements may be used. In exceptional circumstances changes to elements of this course may be necessary at short notice. Students enrolled in this course will be informed of any such changes and the reasons for them, as soon as possible, through Canvas.