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Section I. Basic Principles Chapter 1. Introduction
Definitions Pharmacology can be defined as the study of substances that interact with living systems through chemical processes, especially by binding to regulatory molecules and activating or inhibiting normal body processes. These substances may be chemicals administered to achieve a beneficial therapeutic effect on some process within thepatient or for their toxic effects on regulatory processes in parasites infecting the patient. Such deliberate therapeutic applications may be considered the proper role of medical pharmacology, which is often defined as the science of substances used to prevent, diagnose, and treat disease. Toxicology is that branch of pharmacology which deals with the undesirable effects of chemicals on livingsystems, from individual cells to complex ecosystems. History of Pharmacology Prehistoric people undoubtedly recognized the beneficial or toxic effects of many plant and animal materials. The earliest written records from China and from Egypt list remedies of many types, including a few still recognized today as useful drugs. Most, however, were worthless or actually harmful. In the 2500 years or sopreceding the modern era there were sporadic attempts to introduce rational methods into medicine, but none were successful owing to the dominance of systems of thought that purported to explain all of biology and disease without the need for experimentation and observation. These schools promulgated bizarre notions such as the idea that disease was caused by excesses of bile or blood in the body,that wounds could be healed by applying a salve to the weapon that caused the wound, and so on. Around the end of the 17th century, reliance on observation and experimentation began to replace theorizing in medicine, following the example of the physical sciences. As the value of these methods in the study of disease became clear, physicians in Great Britain and on the Continent began to applythem to the effects of traditional drugs used in their own practices. Thus, materia medica—the science of drug preparation and the medical use of drugs—began to develop as the precursor to pharmacology. However, any understanding of the mechanisms of action of drugs was prevented by the absence of methods for purifying active agents from the crude materials that were available and—even more—by thelack of methods for testing hypotheses about the nature of drug actions.

In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, François Magendie and later his student Claude Bernard began to develop the methods of experimental animal physiology and pharmacology. Advances in chemistry and the further development of physiology in the 18th, 19th, and early 20th centuries laid the foundation needed forunderstanding how drugs work at the organ and tissue levels. Paradoxically, real advances in basic pharmacology during this time were accompanied by an outburst of unscientific promotion by manufacturers and marketers of worthless "patent medicines." It was not until the concepts of rational therapeutics, especially that of the controlled clinical trial, were reintroduced into medicine—about 50 yearsago—that it became possible to accurately evaluate therapeutic claims. About 50 years ago, there also began a major expansion of research efforts in all areas of biology. As new concepts and new techniques were introduced, information accumulated about drug action and the biologic substrate of that action, the receptor. During the last half-century, many fundamentally new drug groups and new membersof old groups were introduced. The last 3 decades have seen an even more rapid growth of information and understanding of the molecular basis for drug action. The molecular mechanisms of action of many drugs have now been identified, and numerous receptors have been isolated, structurally characterized, and cloned. In fact, the use of receptor identification methods (described in Chapter 2:...
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