Dictionary of Pharmacology


An Illustrated Companion to Pharmacology

What is An Illustrated Companion to Pharmacology?

A dictionary of pharmacology with figures, tables and references.


This website is aimed at anyone who has an interest in pharmacology but particularly undergraduates who need an information source to pull together all their university or college studies or who need a quick reminder of things they may have forgotten. This website was written out of frustration. There were not enough pharmacology dictionaries and most textbooks tended be clinically orientated. Clinical pharmacology was, however, only a small part of what I wanted to know. Who would tell me why Basenji dogs are used in research into asthma? Who could explain the mechanism by which spreptozotocin induces diabetes in animals? How could I find out where Zucker rats originated and why they are fat? Where would I find out about receptor nomenclature? Who was Julius Axelrod? Why is cecal ligation and puncture a useful model for peritonitis? What is (or what are) PPAR? While working in the publishing industry I became fed up with the limited resources available to me. Most textbooks could tell me what, but few said why, how and where I should go for more information. Well, this is a what, why, how and where-to-go-from-here website of pharmacology.
   It is not intended to provide comprehensive clinical drug information. There are plenty of books and web resources which do that.


Pharmacology has for a long time been a broad-ranging science involving not only 'classical' pharmacology but molecular biology, pharmaceutics, biotechnology, toxicology, medicinal chemistry, and statistics amongst other disciplines and more recently proteomics, genomics, glycomics, metabolomics, and bioinformatics. It is also important in other sciences such as forensic science, physiology, medicine, nursing, dentistry, veterinary science and chemistry. All these disciplines contribute to our current understanding of pharmacology and pharmacology contributes to our understanding of them.
   I have used many resources to put this companion together and some of these are listed below. I have simply assimilated information from these and other sources and have not wilfully plagiarized information from them. You will no doubt find many similarities between the entries in this website and those in other websites and websites you may have used.

Conventions used

Entries are listed alphabetically and present alternative spellings where appropriate. (This website uses British English spelling so most of the alternatives are American English spelling). Bold type in an entry denotes a separate alphabetic entry for that word or words which the reader should consult to obtain a better understanding of the particular entry. Italics after an entry refer you on to the entry where you will find the information you want.
   Following many entries there is a reference in blue. This may not be the best or most up to date reference for that topic but it is a good starting point for further reading. If the link takes you to a website, then the website will also be a good place to start further research but may not be the best of most up to date.

A note about chemistry - The text contains chemical structures and pathways where appropriate which illustrate in greater detail the actual chemical structures and processes involved in pharmacology. I have assumed that most readers, like me, only have a simple knowledge of organic chemistry. All compounds have been named and drawn according to the entries in The Merck Index (12th Edition or later) or a similar reputable source.
   If you are wondering what the chemical bond shapes mean, here's a reminder which should be useful when considering enantiomers.

a note about chemistry

The Merck Index uses CAS* nomenclature (which may differ slightly from IUPAC** naming). This, hopefully, will make it easier for you to make a more detailed search on a compound using CAS on-line or STN for example as the CAS index is the most comprehensive chemical database available worldwide. In some cases, the structures in Merck will differ from those you might see in a pharmacology or chemistry textbook.

*CAS - Chemical Abstracts Service is a part of the American Chemical Society. CAS maintain an extremely comprehensive database of all chemical compounds (now totalling over 18 million). They assign a unique identifying number to each compound (the CAS registry number) and make the contents of this database available for use for a fee (www.cas.org).
**IUPAC is the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemists which is responsible for developing the system of chemical nomenclature most widely used today. They have a comprehensive website where they provide guidelines for the naming of organic molecules including sugars, amino acids and steroids.

Reference material

Throughout the text of this website you will find references to books, research papers and/or manuscripts and links to websites. These have been selected because they provide detailed explanations of the topic covered and are a good place to start with extra reading before you dive into the murky waters of the wider Internet, Medline, Excerpta Medica or a library to investigate the topic further. Where there is no reference, then either I couldn't find an appropriate article, haven't got round to looking for one or you will find the information you need in any good pharmacology textbook. All reference material is in English unless otherwise stated. Information on the clinical use of the drugs referred to is for humans unless otherwise noted and usually describes the use of the drug in the UK according to the British National Formulary (but the text here should not be used in prescribing drugs). The references in this website should be available in any good university or science library or in any national library.
   A lot of the material researched for this website was found on the shelves of the British Library in London. National libraries include:

The British Library, London
United States National Library of Medicine, Washington DC
The National Library of Australia

Textbooks referred to throughout this website and which readers will most probably find useful for further reading are shown below. Always use the latest edition of each textbook.

General references

Handbook of Pharmacology. Springer Verlag. Over 150 volumes of probably the most detailed experimental pharmacology available.
Rang, Dale, Ritter, Flower and Henderson - Rang and Dale's Pharmacology. 7th edition. Churchill Livingstone 2011. Popular pharmacology text particularly among medical students.
Dictionary of Toxicology. E Hodgson, RB Mailman and JE Chambers (Eds). Macmillan Reference. Second Edition 1998.
Principles of Medicinal Chemistry, WO Foye, TL Lemke, DA Williams. 4th Edition. Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins.
Clinical Pharmacology by PN Bennett and MJ Brown. Churchill Livingstone. March 2003. Popular clinical pharmacology text.
Goodman and Gilman; The Pharmacological Basis of Therapeutics. 12th Edition, 2011. McGraw-Hill Medical. Eds. Laurence Brunton, Bruce A. Chabner and Bjorn Knollman. Probably the most comprehensive single-volume pharmacology text available at over 1800 pages.
British National Formulary. Pharmaceutical Press/BMJ Books. Published quarterly. Essential prescribing information in the UK.
The Veterinary Formulary. The Pharmaceutical Press. 2nd Edition or later. Edited by Y. Debuf. Useful reference for veterinary pharmacology.
Lawrence and Carpenter. A Dictionary of Pharmacology and Allied Topics - Second Edition. DR Laurence (Editor). Elsevier. (1998)
Rowland and Tozer. Clinical Pharmacokinetics and Pharmacodynamics: Concepts and Applications. Lippincott Williams and Wilkins. 4th Edition (2010).
Remmington: The Science and Practice of Pharmacy. The Pharmaceutical Press. 21st Edition. 2011. Very comprehensive text book on pharmacy and pharmaceutics.
Encyclopedic Reference of Molecular Pharmacology. Offermann S and Rosenthal W (Eds) Springer Verlag.
Burger's Medicinal Chemistry and Drug Discovery. Wolff ME (Ed). John Wiley & Sons. Fifth edition or later. Superb 5-volume reference for drug design and synthesis.
Lewis' Dictionary of Toxicology. Lewis RA. Lewis Publishers.
The National Veterinary Medical Series. Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins. 1996. Good veterinary pharmacology text.
Concise Dictionary of Pharmacological Agents, Properties and Synonyms. Morton IKM and Hall JM. Kluwer Academic Publishers.

Additional reading

Landmarks in Pharmacology - A selection of papers published in the British Journal of Pharmacology since its foundation in 1946. Supplement to Volume 120(4) 1997. Superb collection of 35 classic pharmacology papers.
Dictionary of Pharmacology B W Bowman et al. Blackwell Scientific Publications. (1986)
Concise Encyclopedia - Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. TA Scott and EI Mercer (Eds). W de Gruyter. (1997)
The Merck Index, 14th Edition (2006) or later. Wiley-Blackwell.
Medicinal Chemistry - Principles and Practice. FD King (Ed). The Royal Society of Chemistry Press. 2nd Edition (2002).
Annual Review of Pharmacology and Toxicology - www.annualreview.org

Internet resources (just a brief list)

Societies and Organizations

ASPET - The American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics
IUPAC - The International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry
IUPHAR - International Union of Basic and Clinical Pharmacology
Prescribing and pricing info for the UK in the British National Formulary
Erowid - information about psychoactive drugs

General Pharmacology Sites

Pharmacology resources on the Internet
A website for brain disorders and neurotransmitters
Cytokines on-line pathfinder encyclopaedia
Pathophysiology of the endocrine system
Psychotropic drugs
Quantitative structure activity relationships and modelling
Medical Pharmacology and Disease­Based Integrated Instruction - a good clinical pharmacology reference site
IUPHAR database
NOAH - animal health website

Journals and Reviews

The British Journal of Pharmacology
PubMed (journal references, lots of them!)
JPET - The Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics
Trends in Pharmacological Sciences
pA2 Online - the e-journal from the British Journal of Pharmacology - has some good articles of general pharmacology

Glossaries, Dictionaries and Databases

IUPAC Gold Book - a compendium of chemical technology
A glossary of statistical terms
Good definitions of lots of things not just pharmacology from Wikipedia
On-line medical dictionary - one of many good medical dictionaries
Another medical dictionary from MedLine Plus
IUPAC glossary of medicinal chemistry

People in Pharmacology

Profiles in Science - a collection of the works of some well-known scientists
The Nobel Foundation

Other sites

Tocris - a supplier of pharmacological tools
Medical mnemonics

It is almost a certainty (if a certainty can be almost) that there are some errors and/or omissions in this website although I have done my best to reduce errors to an absolute minimum by double checking every entry with independent sources.
   If you find an error or omission (or both), please contact me with details of the problem via e-mail and I will ensure that the matter is sorted out as soon as possible. This is a work in progress and I hope to get all the pages I have written up on the web sometime before the next ice age. This website is really a hobby.

About The Kanji Foundry Press

Well, it's a sister site to to The Kanji Foundry and The Kanji Foundry Learning. It really is an offshoot of the work I've done for them over about the past 10 or so years. I originally intended this to be a series of notes that I could use give me the information I needed on the mechanisms of action of drugs and disease models in a nutshell to help me in patent translation. Then I decided to put all the information I had gathered onto the web giving me a chance to learn about website construction (which I still haven't mastered) and reminding me of the easily forgettable bits of pharmacology (which I still forget).

The copyright to this website belongs to The Kanji Foundry Press. Having said that, is intended for students of pharmacology and so I encourage them to use it as much as they need to while respecting the copyright. Contributions are welcomed and the authors will be acknowledged.

© The Kanji Foundry Press 2003-2019. All rights reserved. No part of this text may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, even by means not yet invented (even if some new method emerges from that large hadron collider thingy at CERN) without the prior permission of The Kanji Foundry Press.

Please note that this website has nothing to do with the superb Illustrated Companion series of books from Oxford University Press ).


I wish to thank the following people (in no particular order) for their help and contributions in the production of this book:

Neil Bell MSc
Dr John Earl
Professor Jim Ford
Dr Letitia Perry
Dr Girvan Burnside


You can contact The Kanji Foundry Press by sending e-mail to info@thekanjifoundrypress.com