Before trying to define "applied pharmacology" it's essential to define what is meant by "pharmacology". Pharmacology is defined as a "study of the action and uses of drugs". Louis Goodman and Alfred Gillman the famous duo who are credited with a seminal treatise on pharmacology has given a more wholesome definition of pharmacology which categorizes pharmacology as the study of the source, properties, physiological action, absorption, excretion and therapeutic use of drugs.

The depiction or narrative of the clinical application of drugs or its use in actual medical practice is referred to as "applied pharmacology". Applied pharmacology allows the physician to extend his knowledge of abstract pharmacology of a drug to the way the drug would actually function in medical practice. In other words, applied pharmacology deals with the usage of drugs, or how pharmacological information could be applied to therapeutics. Although a careful look at the definition of "pharmacology" by Goodman and Gillman makes us realize that it is inclusive of the definition of "applied pharmacology" as well, the fact remains that there was not much emphasis on the clinical application of pharmacology in the earlier textbooks on pharmacology, and hence over the years, "applied pharmacology" has emerged as a separate branch of pharmacology, especially with the proliferation of different drugs for the same disease.
Applied pharmacology makes it possible not only to explain to the doctor or other medical professional the action of drugs in the human body, but is also important in evaluating the efficacy of drugs in a particular disease condition. Clinicians and clinicians-to-be are the people who look to applied pharmacology for ready reference. Consequently it is doctors, experts in the medical field, and clinical pharmacists who are most likely to provide valuable inputs in the domain of "applied pharmacology"
A school of thought professes the idea that the use of drugs in animals for evaluation is pharmacology, and the study of drugs in humans is therapeutics/ applied pharmacology. Another school of thought is of the opinion that pharmacology is the study of medicines in the normal un-diseased state, while the study of medicines in the diseased is therapeutics/ applied pharmacology. All this is confusing and makes us wonder if the term applied pharmacology is a misnomer especially in the light of Goodman and Gillman's original definition of pharmacology itself.

In any case, applied pharmacology can be of use in following areas:

a) Help assess data obtained from clinical studies and correlate it with clinical procedures.

b)Provide explanation for different drugs having related pharmacological action.

c) Provide explanations about drug interactions.

d) Explain the action of various drugs on the various organs in the body when they are in a diseased state, with side effects, contraindications, etc.

Let's analyze the importance of applied pharmacology in the context of cardiac care. For example, in the treatment of angina pectoris there exists a plethora of medicines like Norvasc (calcium channel blockers) that dilate the cardiac arteries, lower the blood pressure and ensures adequate blood supply to the heart; Betapace (beta blockers) which improves the heart's ability to pump blood by blocking the effect of adrenaline on beta receptors; and Elanapril (ACE inhibitors). Then there are newer drugs like Vastaral MR which works by optimizing cardiac energy metabolism (by preventing destructive fatty acid oxidation in the myocardium), and of course the good old nitroglycerine, in addition to many more brands.
Considering the fact that the patient was in the midst of an episode of angina pectoris, what would the doctor prescribe? That's were applied pharmacology comes into play and help the physician in choosing the right medicine. The doctor would start with a nitro first to relieve the symptoms of angina and then decide on long term treatment depending on whether it was stable or unstable angina. Here's where the applied pharmacology of each of the medicine choices have to be reckoned with.

Similarly applied pharmacology has a role in assisting the physician in deciding on the right medication for a person suffering from type2 diabetes, in selecting pain relief medicines, or even in choosing the right cough medication.
Applied pharmacology has a role even in veterinary medicine. It can tell the veterinarian how certain drugs work, as for example, Rocall (ammonium chloride) combats gram positive bacteria, and is not broad spectrum. In fact the role of applied pharmacology in veterinary medicine is substantial, and so it is erroneous to think that applied pharmacology is limited to drugs and human beings.

About Author / Additional Info: