MEDSCI 318 : Pharmacokinetics and Drug Toxicity

Medical and Health Sciences

2024 Semester One (1243) (15 POINTS)

Course Prescription

Considers the biochemical processes involved in achieving clinically-relevant drug concentrations that result in therapeutic effects and drug toxicity, from drug input, distribution, and elimination plus the ways in which these processes are described (pharmacokinetic modelling). Explores factors such as drug-drug interactions, pharmacogenetics, dosing and pharmacokinetic considerations in selected populations and that may influence both clinical effectiveness and drug toxicity.

Course Overview

MEDSCI 318 aims to help us understand the science behind how medicines are developed and used effectively and safely. It is primarily concerned with pharmacokinetics (PK) and drug toxicity. PK describes the relationship between the drug dose and its tissue concentration, and how the drug concentration changes with time. PK integrates the processes of drug absorption, distribution, metabolism and excretion (ADME) quantitatively (with numbers) by determining parameters, which can be used to calculate the dose required to achieve a target concentration. PK knowledge helps us decide how much drug to take, by which route and when, so that clinical benefit can be maximised. However, drugs can also have harmful effects (toxicity), which are concentration-dependent. Understanding a drug’s PK characteristics can be used to predict and prevent adverse drug effects early in the drug development process, as well as to understand toxicities observed in certain patients using already approved medicines (sometimes referred to as toxicokinetics (TK), rather than PK). Understanding PK, therefore, is critical both for the development and evaluation of new drugs, as well as the selection of an appropriate dose in clinical pharmacology. The role of PK in the effective and safe use of medicines is the focus of MEDSCI 318.

To put these concepts in context we focus on two key scenarios which form the basis of our labs, lectures and workshops in the first and second half of semester accordingly:

1. Selection of a safe starting dose for a first-in-human clinical trial.

2. Adjustment of dose(s) of approved medicines to accommodate differences between individual patients.

So, if you are interested in developing new drugs, how drug regulatory authorities like the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) make decisions to test and approve drugs, understanding prescribing, understanding adverse drug reactions and more, then join us in MEDSCI 318 Pharmacokinetics and Drug Toxicity!

Course Requirements

Prerequisite: MEDSCI 204 and 30 points from MEDSCI 203, 205, BIOSCI 203 Restriction: MEDSCI 303, 306, 321

Course Contacts

We recommend you contact the course coordinators using our course specic email:

Course Coordinator:
Dr Rachel Cameron (Senior Tutor)
SMS Teaching Hub, Room B505-102,

Course Directors:
Dr Jacqueline Hannam
503-302-J, Ext 82869,
Professor Malcolm Tingle
503-302-H, Ext 84949,

Capabilities Developed in this Course

Capability 2: Sustainability
Capability 3: Knowledge and Practice
Capability 4: Critical Thinking
Capability 5: Solution Seeking
Capability 6: Communication
Capability 8: Ethics and Professionalism
Graduate Profile: Bachelor of Science

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this course, students will be able to:
  1. Summarise and communicate the role of input, distribution and elimination processes on drug concentration, and explain how physicochemical properties of drugs relate to pharmacokinetic principles (Capability 3 and 6)
  2. Discuss the patient and environmental factors that influence pharmacokinetics, including the problems encountered with the use of drugs in selected diseases and populations (Capability 3, 4 and 6)
  3. Summarise and communicate the role of exposure, concentration and time on toxicity and its consequent impact on biochemistry and the clinical effectiveness of drugs (Capability 3, 4 and 6)
  4. Critically discuss the relevance of non-clinical species to the prediction of human drug safety (Capability 3 and 4)
  5. Apply scientific reasoning and methods to experimental design for drug concentration and drug toxicity (Capability 3, 4 and 5)
  6. Demonstrate competency of a selected range of skills, including observation and measurement, an appreciation of variability, precision and accuracy, data analysis and interpretation (Capability 3 and 5)
  7. Discuss the ethical use of animals in pharmacology in the New Zealand context (Capability 2, 4 and 8)


Assessment Type Percentage Classification
Workshops 5% Individual Coursework
Laboratories 25% Individual Coursework
Mid-semester and end-of-semester assessments 20% Individual Coursework
Final integrated assignment 50% Individual Coursework
Assessment Type Learning Outcome Addressed
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
Mid-semester and end-of-semester assessments
Final integrated assignment
To pass this course, you must achieve a minimum of 45% in each of the 4 assessment types (1. workshop, 2. laboratories, 3. mid-semester and end-of-semester assessments and 4. final integrated assignment) AND a minimum of 50% of the available marks overall.
You must also attend at least 75% of the laboratory sessions.

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 a total of 24 hours of lectures, 24 hours of laboratories, 12 hours of workshops and 90 hours of reading and thinking actively about the content and working on/preparing for assessments.

Delivery Mode

Campus Experience

Attendance is required at scheduled laboratories to receive credit for components of the course.
Lectures will be available as recordings. Other learning activities including workshops will not be available as recordings.
The course will not include live online events.
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.

We do not recommend the purchase of any one particular textbook to support course content. However, you may find the following textbooks useful for background reading for the lecture/laboratory material:
1. Ritter JM, Flower RJ, Henderson G, Loke YK, MacEwan DJ, Rang HP. Rang & Dale’s Pharmacology. 9th ed. Edinburgh: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2020.
2. Katzung BG. Basic and Clinical Pharmacology. 14th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill; 2018.
3. Brunton LL, Knollman BC, Hilal-Dandan, R. Goodman & Gilman’s The Pharmacological Basis of Therapeutics. 13th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill; 2018. 
N.B. Copies of Rang & Dale’s Pharmacology are available in the library or online via Clinical Key (connect via the library’s website).

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.

This course was offered for the first time in 2021. The numbers of students providing feedback through SET typically has been low each year, but valuable information regarding subjects such as assessment weighting and learning resources has been acted upon. 

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 for potential plagiarism or other forms of academic misconduct, using computerised detection mechanisms.

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.

Class representatives will be elected at the start of the semester and their contact details shared via Canvas.

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.

If you are unable to complete assessments, contact staff for advice using

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.

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.

Published on 31/10/2023 09:53 a.m.