pharmacology, study of the changes produced in living animals by chemical substances, especially the actions of drugs, substances used to treat disease. Systematic investigation of the effects of drugs based on animal experimentation and the use of isolated and purified active substances developed in the mid-19th cent. Pharmacologists, emphasizing the mechanisms by which drugs act, draw on the disciplines of physiology, pathology, biochemistry, and bacteriology. Pharmacology embraces a number of sciences, including pharmacodynamics (the study of the action of drugs on a living body), therapeutics (use of drugs and method of administration in treatment for disease), materia medica (study of the source, composition, characteristics, and preparation of drugs), toxicology (the study of poisons and their action and of methods of treating poisoning), pharmaceutical chemistry (chemistry in relation to drugs), and pharmacy (the preparation and dispensing of drugs for medical use).
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