Ease yourself into the world of pharmacology with this book

An easy-to-follow book on the complex science of pharmacology.

‘How drugs work: basic pharmacology for health professionals 4th edition’, by Hugh McGavock

This book is intended as an introduction to pharmacology for healthcare professionals, including pharmacists, nurse prescribers, and general practitioners. Although there are many more comprehensive pharmacology text books available, this book succeeds in its aim of distilling the key aspects of pharmacology into a concise, easy-to-read volume.

‘How drugs work’ provides an excellent overview of a complex science. It covers the principles of absorption, distribution, metabolism and excretion, as well as drug half-life, cell receptors, and enzymes. The principles of drug action are discussed for a selection of drugs and common disease states. Several chapters are dedicated to areas of special concern, for example, prescribing for the elderly, adverse drug interactions, developing formularies and non-concordance. This book is well written and the text is supported by clear illustrations and diagrams.

A particular strength of McGavock’s writing lies in his ability to put things into clinical context, so the reader knows, for example, why understanding aspects of a certain drug’s mechanism of action is important and how it might affect their clinical practice or the advice that they give to a patient. At around 200 pages, the book can easily be read in full as a learning exercise, but it can also be used as a reference guide in conjunction with the British National Formulary.

The author includes some useful summary tables, which he recommends could be used as reminders for prescribing or checking prescriptions; examples include important drug interactions, or drugs that should not be used while breastfeeding.

This reasonably priced book is highly recommended as an introductory text for pharmacy students but would also be ideal as a pharmacology refresher and update for practising pharmacists. Of particular note is that the book is continuing professional development (CPD)-certified. 


‘How drugs work: basic pharmacology for health professionals 4th edition’, by Hugh McGavock. Pp v+204 £27.99. New York: CRC Press; 2015. ISBN 978 1 78523 077 6

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, January 2016, Vol 296, No 7885;296(7885):DOI:10.1211/PJ.2016.20200146