Clinical pharmacology and therapeutics

Clinical pharmacologists are doctors with training in clinical pharmacology and therapeutics (CPT), which is the science of medicines and their clinical use. Their main role is to improve patient care through the safe, economic and effective use of medicines.

Nature of the work

Clinical pharmacologists often work in hospitals, providing specialist advice to patients and colleagues which improve the outcomes and experiences for patients. They may also work in academic settings, in industry and for national and government organisations.

An important aspect of the role is clinical work with patients who may have complex health problems. The CPT physician is in a unique position to help with advice about the correct medicines and dosages.

They can provide specialist advice on the interactions of different medicines and how these might affect patients. Some patients may have adverse drug reactions, or find that their medicine does not work as it should, and the CPT physician is well-placed to assist with this.

CPT physicians may also adopt a generalist role, providing hospital care for patients with complex conditions that affect multiple organ systems and therefore need several different medicines. There is an increased chance of drug interactions and adverse reactions with this patient group, who are often elderly.

As well as working in hospitals, CPT physicians have an increasing role in community-based medicine, by running clinics for patients with hypertension (high blood pressure) or for those considered a risk for stroke or heart disease.

Providing guidance about the safe prescribing of medicines is another important aspect of CPT medicine. At a local level CPT physicians may offer a local medicines information service.  They also work with the British National Formulary, which offers medical staff prescribing guidelines and treatment summaries. The goal is always to ensure that patients obtain the maximum health gain from medicines.

Poisoning is a common reason for hospital admission and many of these cases are related to the misuse of prescribed medicines. Some CPT physicians with toxicology expertise work in specialist poison centres. They provide advice about poisoning to staff in A&E and intensive care units, helping to improve care, facilitating early discharge and preventing avoidable hospital re-admissions.

Other areas of work include:

Common procedures/interventions

Common procedures and interventions include:

Sub-specialties

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