Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences
Department of Pharmacology & Clinical Pharmacology, University of Auckland
Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences
Department of Pharmacology & Clinical Pharmacology, University of Auckland

MBChB501 Clinical Pharmacology

Year 5 Clinical Pharmacology 2018


Module Coordinator


Prof Mark  McKeage


Module Administrator


Teresa Timo





Clinical Pharmacology Timetable and Lecture Resources


The timetable includes links to all lecture resources used in Formal Learning.


Please be sure to read the Asynchronous Learning, Synchronous Learning and Prescribing Safety Assessment sections (see below).


Introduction to Year 5 Clinical Pharmacology


Welcome to the Clinical Pharmacology module of the MBChB 501 course.

This module will build on your existing anatomy, physiology, genetics, and biochemistry knowledge. This module is designed to teach you the principles of clinical pharmacology and therapeutics that will underlie other aspects of your medical education and future medical practice.  Where we can, we will use specific clinical examples and patient scenarios to help you understand these basic principles. You should expect your learning from this module to integrate with your learning from other modules.


I hope that this module is informative, challenging and interesting. Good luck with the year.


Nick Holford


Module Overview

The clinical pharmacology module is taught by a series of lectures and tutorials.

The lectures provide a structured introduction to the principles of clinical pharmacology and application to therapeutics.

The tutorials encourage students to reflect on the module content and apply principles of dose individualization.

The Clinical Pharmacology module consists of formal lectures, synchronous and asynchronous learning activities. In view of possible last minute change of venues and times, please refer to the MBChB Portal (http://medprog.fmhs.auckland.ac.nz/timetable/) for the latest timetable information.

Lectures will be given in lecture theatre 505-011 unless you are informed otherwise.

The notes and lecture slides provided cover key areas of interest as your lecturers see them, and guide you about the scope of what we expect you to learn. However, this is a university-level course, therefore, for some topics you will need to do your own reading outside of lectures and module resources. If unsure about anything please don’t hesitate to ask your lecturers for help.

If you are given reading material before any session or in this module manual, you are expected to have read and considered this prior to attending.


Medicines You Should Know About


Practicing doctors may prescribe from a large list of medicines in New Zealand. Typically, every doctor will be familiar with several hundred medicines. Clinicians at FMHS have compiled a list of medicines that they think all medical students should be aware of. A shorter list has been identified that should be familiar to year 6 medical students who may be asked to initiate a prescription. These lists are accessible on the MBChB Clinical Scenarios Medicines website.


The CP module will introduce you to medicines from these lists. As you continue in your medical training you will learn about a wider range of medicines.  You are expected to be familiar with the mechanism of action, primary indications and major adverse effects of all medicines that are referred to in the CP module.  This information will not necessarily be discussed by your teachers or appear in the course materials. You should learn to use online resources about medicines to complement and integrate the materials used in the CP module (see MBChB Clinical Scenarios Medicines website for further links).


Clinical Pharmacology Formal Learning


In Year 5 students will be introduced to a greater degree of complexity in the practice of prescribing, building upon the knowledge and practical skills acquired in Phase 1 and Year 4. 

Session one focuses on the prescriber working in a mindful way: considering the issues involved in detecting and preventing medication errors, the use of prescribing aids and the ethical issues involved in prescribing.

Session two reinforces the need to approach patients as individuals when prescribing, focusing on prescribing to three ‘special’ populations:  children, pregnant women and lactating women.


Clinical Pharmacology Synchronous Learning


Therapeutics is taught in the Synchronous Learning in Medicine teaching in Year 4. (For further information refer to Staff and Student Guide to Synchronous Learning in Year 4).


After completing Year 6, you should be able to formulate a basic management plan and identify medicines (and nonpharmacological approaches) that might be indicated for each therapeutic problem.

Clinical Pharmacology Asynchronous Learning

Please read the following instructions about the National Prescribing Centre modules. You are expected to use these modules to help improve your prescribing knowledge and skills. There are recommended modules for both Year 4 and Year 5 students. If you are a Year 5 student and have not taken the Year 4 modules then you are strongly encouraged to do so.

Australian National Prescribing Centre Modules



Prescribing Skills Assessment

Why do we do prescribing skills assessment?


The Prescribing Skills Assessment (PSA) is a two hour online test designed to assess prescribing competence. The test is a mandatory, summative (pass-fail) asssessment. It will take place around the end of October 2018 starting at 8:30 am and finishing at 10:30 am.


Students who have taken this assessment in the past have commented very positively on its usefulness. You will get the most out of the assessment if you prepare yourself during the year by reading the following section on preparing for the test and making sure you understand the sample questions.


The results of the test will provide you with an individualised indication of your preparedness to prescribe safely and highlight any areas that you need to address in Year 6 in order to feel confident to prescribe safely.  It is planned that you will be given further opportunities to demonstrate prescribing competence during Year 6, and this, together with the PSA, aims to help you prepare for independent prescribing in your PGY1 year.

In order to take the test you will need to be registered with the PSA for 2018. You will need to activate your PSA account. You will receive an email reminder in the second semester asking you to do this when the PSA site is ready for registration to start.  Once you have activated your account you will be able to access more detailed information about the PSA and be able to take the Practice Assessments. If you have difficulty accessing the "Preparing for the PSA event" video, a transcript of the information contained in the video will be available in the near future.


To activate your account go to Prescribing Skills Assessment and use your University of Auckland email address.  It is suggested that you use your  University password to register on  the  PSA  web  site so  that you  only have one password to remember. This is  especially  important on the day you take the test. After you have registered on the PSA site and if you  forget your PSA password you can request a password reset to be sent to your UoA email address. 

There is assistance available via the PSA website.  Alternatively you can contact the local PSA academic co-ordinator, Professor Nick Holford.

IMPORTANT: You must use the Auckland  PSA website link (https://prescribingskillsassessment.com). Do not try to use  www.prescribingsafetyassessment.ac.uk  which is for UK students.


PSA Test Format

The PSA is an on-line exam lasting two hours. The exam is divided into 8 stations and each station contains 6-8 questions. The competencies tested include writing new prescriptions, reviewing existing prescriptions, calculating drug doses, identifying and avoiding both adverse drug reactions and medication errors and amending prescribing to suit individual patient circumstances.  For more information you can look on the PSA website https://prescribingskillsassessment.com/aboutpsa.

Note that you will need to use the New Zealand Formulary (NZF) in place of the British National Formulary (BNF). The  NZF will be  available for  consultation during the test. It is the only on-line resource you are allowed to access during the test. Attempts to  look at other resources during the test is considered cheating.


Preparing for the Test

Sample questions are available and once you have activated your account you will have access to practice exams. Note that these  sample questions are  designed for  UK student use so you may find some  medicine names  are not those used in New Zealand.  Questions involving date and time format are designed for UK time. The actual test in Auckland will only  use New Zealand  specific medicines and date and time will be UK time.

You can also prepare for the test by:
1. reviewing your Formal Learning in clinical pharmacology

2. participating in the Asynchronous Learning (the NPC online modules)

3. engaging in prescribing during your clinical attachments. 

You can also practice by trying an unofficial “preparation” test designed by a UK medical school.