What Does a Clinical Pharmacologist Do?

Mary McMahon

A clinical pharmacologist works to improve the safety and efficacy of therapeutic drugs. These health care professionals can be involved in individual patient care, research, and public health. Some belong to professional organizations that offer certification in the field to adequately trained clinical pharmacologists, typically after completion of medical school, residency, and a fellowship. They may hold both medical degrees and PhDs and can attend specialized MD/PhD programs to streamline their educations.

A clinical pharmacologist works to improve the safety and efficacy of therapeutic drugs.
A clinical pharmacologist works to improve the safety and efficacy of therapeutic drugs.

Clinical pharmacologists study the way therapeutic drugs behave in the human body, how drugs interact, and how to achieve the most desirable effects with a minimum of disruption to the patient. Drug companies use these experts in the development and testing of new products. A clinical pharmacologist may participate in clinical trials and followups, work on dosage recommendations for medication, and explore possible new uses for a drug. This work can include clinical work with patients as well as lab study and analysis of patient and clinical trial records.

A doctor may call upon a clinical pharmacologist for assistance with the development of a drug regimen, especially if it is complex. This care provider may have recommendations on which drugs to use and how to combine them safely and appropriately. The doctor can use this information to tailor a drug regimen to the needs of the patient. While doctors have some training in pharmacology so they can prescribe safely, the in-depth training of clinical pharmacology can be necessary for some treatments.

Another aspect of this work can include public health monitoring and ongoing large scale research. A clinical pharmacologist may look at how drugs behave in the population as a whole, monitoring their use and identifying any concerns that may need to be addressed. This can include reading reports on adverse drug events, interviewing patients and care providers, and reviewing patient information. If concerns do develop, the clinical pharmacologist can discuss options for intervention.

Skills that can be helpful for a clinical pharmacologist may include a good sense of observation, an excellent eye for detail, and the ability to patiently review large volumes of information. Doctors and patients rely on these specialists to make sound and sensible treatment recommendations both for individuals and populations in general. Drug companies, government agencies, and organizations concerned with health care also need pharmacological researchers to do their work, and may provide a myriad of job opportunities. The work can include travel to trial and study sites, as well as opportunities to interact with a variety of medical researchers.

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