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Remembering the Lessons of Basic Pharmacology

Timothy C. Fagan, MD
Arch Intern Med. 1994;154(13):1430-1431. doi:10.1001/archinte.1994.00420130016003.
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ONE OF the greatest problems with standard medical education in the United States is that when basic principles are taught, the clinical relevance is not clear to the student. This leads to lack of retention of basic principles, so that, by the time the student encounters clinical data, the principles have been forgotten and are, thus, not applied to the clinical data. Ideally, a refresher course in basic principles would be taught before the end of medical training. Since this is usually not the case, physicians often proceed in their careers without benefit of basic principles, which could enhance the rational practice of medicine. Nowhere is this more evident than in therapeutics. This is true not only for drug therapy, but in drug development.

Perhaps the single most basic concept in therapeutics is the log-linear dose-response curve (Figure). It derives from basic chemistry (the law of mass action) and basic


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