PM3DS4-Natural Products in Pharmacy and Medicine: Pharmacognosy

Module Provider: Pharmacy, School of Chemistry
Number of credits: 20 [10 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Autumn and Spring
Pre-requisites: PM2PP2 Pharmacy Practice 2
Non-modular pre-requisites:
Modules excluded:
Module version for: 2012/3

Module Convenor: Prof Elizabeth Williamson


Summary module description:
The chemistry, pharmacology and therapeutics of natural products which are used medicinally as drugs or herbal and nutritional supplements.

To provide students with an overview of natural products, from mainly plant sources, which are used in pharmacy and medicines as drugs, and herbal and nutritional supplements. Their safety and concurrent use with conventional drugs will be particularly emphasised.

Assessable learning outcomes:
Students should be able to:
•Describe the classes of phytochemicals (alkaloids, steroids terpenes etc) which are used in pharmacy and medicine, demonstrating a basic knowledge of their sources and applications
•Understand the difference between a single chemical entity (drug) of natural origin (e.g. taxol, digoxin) and a plant extract (herbal medicine) and its influence on therapeutic activity
•Explain how natural products are discovered, extracted and tested
•Understand the philosophical basis behind the principles of Traditional systems of herbal medicine, e.g. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Ayurveda, describing some of the more important medicines used and their application.
•Outline quality, legal and safety issues surrounding herbal medicines and nutritional supplements, including herb-drug interactions
•Advise patients on the advisability (or otherwise) of using herbal medicines and supplements
•Understand how live animals such as maggots and leeches are used in medicine

Additional outcomes:
Students will develop an understanding of the wide ranging and on-going contribution of natural products to medicine as drugs and pharmacological tools; be able to explain concerns surrounding the use of using herbal medicines including quality control issues unique to natural products and the role of the pharmacists in ensuring public safety

Outline content:
1. A history of plant drugs and their contribution to pharmacy, medicine and science
2. Recognition of medicinal plants in the field, and how they are prepared and used in practice
3. Major classes of natural products: alkaloids (morphinanes [morphine, codeine etc], indoles [ergot, vincristine, hallucinogens etc], quinolines [quinine], pyrrolizidines), steroids [diosgenin, digitalis glycosides, phytosterols]; flavonoids and isoflavonoids (anti-oxidants, phytoestrogens); terpenes (mono- and sequiterpenes in essential oils [menthol, linalool, bisabolol etc]; diterpenes (e.g. ginkgolides, taxol); tetraterpenoids [carotenoids, retinoids]); cannabinoids. Includes the use of NPs as templates for drug development, including semi-synthetic derivatisation (e.g. opioids ? fentanyl, oxycodone; vinca alkaloids ? vinorelbine; diosgenin? prednisolone, estradiol; artemisinin ? artemether; taxol? palcitaxel; quinine ? chloroquine etc)
4. Traditional systems of herbal medicine: European, Chinese, Ayurveda, African medicine – principles and major herbs used
5. Quality assurance: the use of Pharmacopoeial monographs
6. Herbal medicines and the pharmacist: herb-drug interactions, case studies – recommending and advising on herbal medicines
7. The use of ‘biosurgical’ materials (maggots and leeches) as therapeutic agents

Global context:
Many prescription and over-the-counter drugs are derived from natural products; for example over 60% of anti-cancer drugs are obtained from plants and microorganisms. Herbal medicine is, overall, the most widely used type of medicine in the world: in developing countries it is usually the primary form of healthcare and in developed countries it used as a form of complementary or alternative medicine. Pharmacists, the experts on the safe and effective use of all medicines, therefore also need to have a working knowledge of natural product medicines in all their forms.

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:
This module is mainly delivered using lectures and discussion workshops, with self-directed learning assessed by coursework..

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Lectures 20 20
Seminars 4 4
Practicals classes and workshops 6 6
Guided independent study 70 70
Total hours by term 100.00 100.00
Total hours for module 200.00

Summative Assessment Methods:

Method Percentage
Written exam 70
Written assignment including essay 7.5
Dissertation 15
Set exercise 7.5

Other information on summative assessment:
The coursework comprises 30% of the overall module mark

Formative assessment methods:

Penalties for late submission:
Penalties for late submission on this module are in accordance with the University policy.
The following penalties will be applied to coursework which is submitted after the deadline for submission:

  • where the piece of work is submitted up to one calendar week after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): 10% of the total marks available for the piece of work will be deducted from the mark;
  • where the piece of work is submitted more than one calendar week after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): a mark of zero will be recorded.

  • You are strongly advised to ensure that coursework is submitted by the relevant deadline. You should note that it is advisable to submit work in an unfinished state rather than to fail to submit any work.
    (Please refer to the Undergraduate Guide to Assessment for further information:

    Length of examination:
    3 hours

    Requirements for a pass:
    A mark of 40% overall.

    Reassessment arrangements:
    Re-examination in August/September for end of module exam. Reassessment is based on coursework (30 %) and examination (70 %). For students who have achieved a pass in the coursework at the first attempt, the mark will be carried forward to the reassessment.

    Last updated: 1 August 2012

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