MEDSCI 718 : Pharmacology of Anaesthetics and Analgesics

Medical and Health Sciences

2023 Semester One (1233) (15 POINTS)

Course Prescription

General aspects of anaesthetics and analgesics. Topics covered include the development of modern anaesthesia, the mechanisms of action of drugs used in general and local anaesthesia, and issues surrounding safety and efficacy of anaesthesia, including drug error and circadian variation in drug action.

Course Overview

This course is a Master’s level course which focuses on general aspects of the pharmacology of anaesthetics and analgesic agents. Pharmacological principles of the relevant classes of inhalational and intravenous anaesthetics and muscle relaxants are discussed as well as the clinical pharmacology of representative agents in these groups.
The basic principles of anaesthesia and the physiology of anaesthesia are presented as far as these subjects are relevant to the understanding of pharmacology. A second emphasis of teaching is on the pharmacology of pain relief with particular consideration to analgesic agents and local anaesthetics. Here again the physiology of pain is presented in order to facilitate an understanding of the concepts of analgesia.
•    The course will comprise 12 two hour sessions
•    The course is an elective course in the subject area of pharmacology.  

Course Requirements

No pre-requisites or restrictions

Course Contacts

Guy Warman and James Cheeseman (course directors and lecturers)

Capabilities Developed in this Course

Capability 1: Disciplinary Knowledge and Practice
Capability 2: Critical Thinking
Capability 4: Communication and Engagement
Graduate Profile: Master of Science

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this course, students will be able to:
  1. Demonstrate an understanding of the historical development and practical aspects of anaesthesia pharmacology through lectures and a simulation session at the Simulation Centre for Patient Safety. This will help consolidate the learning in lectures which will be assessed in the final exam. (Capability 2 and 4)
  2. Become familiar with the science around the mechanisms of anaesthetic drug action and what is and is not known about how these important drugs work. (Capability 2)
  3. Develop and understanding of the neuroscience of pain and how different analgesics are used to alleviate primarily surgical pain (Capability 2)
  4. Evaluate the differences between the different types of anaesthesia (local, regional and general) and how the drugs of each class work to exert their effects (Capability 2)
  5. Understand the importance of pharmacokinetic and dynamic studies of paracetamol and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs particularly to paediatric populations (Capability 1)
  6. Gain awareness of the broader context of patient safety and the concept of iatrogenic harm. (Capability 2)
  7. Present and discuss recent publications in the field of pharmacology of anaesthetics to the class (20 min presentation) (Capability 4)
  8. Understand and critically evaluate a recent topic on the pharmacology of anaesthetic drugs in an essay (25%) (Capability 2 and 4)
  9. Participate in a simulation session at the simulation centre for patient safety to demonstrate the use of different anaesthetics (Capability 1, 2 and 4)


Assessment Type Percentage Classification
Presentation 5% Group Coursework
Essay 25% Individual Coursework
Final Exam 70% Individual Coursework
Assessment Type Learning Outcome Addressed
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
Final Exam

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 18 hours of lectures, a 2 hour simulation session, 4 hours of student presentations (each student presenting for 20 minutes), 46 hours of reading and thinking about the content and 50 hours of work on assignments and/or test preparation.

Delivery Mode

Campus Experience

Attendance is required at scheduled activities including lectures and student presentations to complete these components of the course.
Lectures will be available as recordings. Other learning activities including student presentations will not be available as recordings.
The course will not include live online events including .
Attendance on campus is not required for the test/exam.
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.

course guide, references given in pre-reading lists

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.

Obviously teaching was disrupted by COVID and in particular overseas students do not learn as they would in person.
The only substantive complaint about the course was from overseas students who were unable to get into NZ.  This is not a good way for the students to learn.  LTMU organisation of lecture theatre recordings was sub-standard.  We complained about this at the time and were ensured it will not happen again. We have requested that LTMU ensure lecture recordings work in the lecture theatres we are assigned to work in 2022

Other Information


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.


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.


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.

pre- recorded sessions will be made available in an emergency

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.