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

MBChB221B - Principles of Clinical Pharmacology

Clinical Pharmacology


Module Coordinator

Prof Nick Holford


Module Administrator

Arti Vaidya


Welcome to the Clinical Pharmacology module of the MBChB 221 course.

This Semester 2 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.

This module will help you achieve a set of specific learning goals.  These are expressed as  Learning Outcomes in the Phase I Year 2 Guidebook.  Please note that a Learning Outcome may be covered by the combination of several lectures, web-based clinical scenarios and tutorials.

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.

A single coursework assignment is included as part of the module.

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

The notes and lecture slides provided in the course manual cover key areas of interest as your lecturers see them, and guide you about the scope of what we expect you to learn. For some topics you will need to do your own reading outside of lectures and module notes. 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.

Recommended textbooks for this module and details of this module’s Assessment are described in the Phase I year 2 Guidebook.

Module  Timetable

 Timetable with links to all lecture and tutorial material is available at :http://clinpharmacol.fmhs.auckland.ac.nz/teaching/mbchb221b/timetable

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 have 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.

You can find a list of the medicines and poisons mentioned in the CP module Medicines List.  This list is intended specifically as a resource for use with the content taught in the CP module. 

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. The list is a guide to medicines you should be familiar with.

Key items of information in the CP module Medicines List are shown in this Medicines List.

Name: The name of the medicine (or poison) is shown here. If it is found in the New Zealand Formulary (NZF) it will show the NZF name.

Indication: A brief list of one or more main clinical indications.

Mechanism:  A brief description of the mechanism of action.

Adverse effects: A brief list of one or more main adverse effects.

The Medicines List is also available here with additional information http://clinpharmacol.fmhs.auckland.ac.nz/docs/medicines-list.xlsx

Scenario: If the medicine is mentioned in the MBChB Clinical Scenarios list the name of the medicine is shown otherwise the name is shown as missing.

NZF: If the medicine can be found in the New Zealand Formulary it will be shown as "y" otherwise "n".

Lecturer: Name of the lecturer who is responsible for the medicines information.

Mentioned: The lecture or workshope where the medicine is mentioned.

Reason: A brief reason for including this medicine on the list.

You should learn to use other online resources about medicines  to complement and integrate the materials used in the CP module (see MBChB Clinical Scenarios Medicines website for further links).

Enquiries and List of Teachers


The overall module director is Professor Nick Holford (n.holford@auckland.ac.nz), who is happy to answer general questions about the module or to help you get the specific support you need. Please contact Professor Holford sooner rather than later if you have problems. However, in the first instance, please direct specific questions about the content of the module to the lecturer who gave the relevant teaching session. Email addresses are provided below and you are urged to communicate with your teachers whenever difficulties arise with module content.





Prof Nick Holford
Course Director


Pharmacology & Clinical Pharmacology

Mr Liam Anderson

Course Coordinator


Pharmacology & Clinical Pharmacology

Prof Mark McKeage


Pharmacology & Clinical Pharmacology

Dr Stephen Jamieson


Pharmacology & Clinical Pharmacology

Dr Nuala Helsby


Molecular Medicine

Dr Anna Ponnampulam


Liggins Institute

Mrs Adele Print



Ms Sanya Ram



Lectures and Tutorials


Lectures are used to present the key principles of clinical pharmacology and applications to therapeutics. Lectures are used to deliver a systematic development of essential ideas so it is important to be aware of the content of earlier sessions. You are encouraged to ask questions during the lecture. The course manual includes images from the presentations so you can focus on listening to the lecturer and may only need to make brief notes.

University Principles

1. The University supports the recording of lectures, and other teaching activities as appropriate, as part of its objective to provide a high-quality learning and teaching environment that maximises the opportunity for all students to succeed. 

2. Lecture capture provides supplementary learning resources, but does not replace face-to-face delivery. 

3. Using recordings as a substitute for regular attendance at teaching sessions may negatively affect achievement and should be actively discouraged.




The module includes three tutorials. Each tutorial lasts for 1 hour. You will be in a group of around 30 students. You will be encouraged to work in small groups of 3 to 4.


What do I need to know about a medicine?


This tutorial encourages you to participate in learning about what you and other health professionals need to know about a medicine. You will be encouraged to suggest what you think physicians, pharmacists and patients need to know. Your tutor will guide you and indicate how and when this information will be introduced to your clinical pharmacology and therapeutics curriculum.

Loading and maintenance dose


You will be asked to discuss how to initiate individual dosing using the principles that were explained to you in earlier lectures in the module. You will consider several different medicines that demonstrate common principles. A simple scientific calculator is recommended so you can try calculating doses.


Target concentration intervention


This tutorial continues the idea of dose individualization with an emphasis on using information about patient response to treatment – especially measured concentrations.  A simple scientific calculator is recommended for calculations.


A clinical pharmacology and therapeutics problem solving assignment is given to you. It involves the application of the clinical pharmacology principles, covered in lectures and tutorials, to calculate a suitable dose of a medicine. You are then asked to write a formal prescription for the medicine using the calculated dose. Details of the coursework assignment are on Canvas.