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Although many pharmacology students are able to memorize an incredible amount of information, there is a limit to what even the best students can learn. Therefore, you must try to organize the material in a way that minimizes the amount of information you have to memorize. Usually this means grouping drugs and making associations.

The best approach is to learn drugs by their class.

New drugs will be introduced during your lifetime and even during your training, so it is necessary to develop a flexible framework for drug information.

From a student’s perspective, it is often very difficult to know what is a priority and what can be skipped. Textbooks are usually not helpful in guiding students because of the way they are organized. They give general information about the pathophysiology or the drug class, followed by details about each individual agent in the class. This is an efficient way to be thorough, and it is very useful when you need to go back and look up a detail about a drug. It is not, however, as useful for the beginning student who must start from scratch.

To help you decide what is the most important information, I have developed a trivia sorter.

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Trivia Sorter: Generic
  1. The mechanism of action for the class of drug.

  2. Properties or effects those are common to all drugs in the class.

  3. Is (are) the drug(s) the drug of choice for some disorder or symptom?

  4. Name recognition—what drugs are in this class?

  5. Unique features about single drugs in the class.

  6. Are there any side effects (rare or not) that may be fatal?

  7. Drug interactions.

  8. Rare side effects or actions that are common to all drugs in the class.

  9. Rare side effects or actions for single drugs in the class.

  10. Other facts such as: percentage of drug that is metabolized versus excretion unchanged, half-life of each drug, teratogenicity of each drug, structural features of individual drugs.

This generic trivia sorter will not work for all drug classes. Therefore, for each class I will indicate the way I have organized the attack on the drugs in that group. For example, the mechanism of action of the antiepileptic drugs is not clear, so you will have to skip step 1 and go to step 2. The antiarrhythmic agents are classified and grouped according to their mechanism of action, so that should be the number 1 item you learn.

You can also determine your own trivia level. I would suggest at least through number 6. If you have the time and inclination to learn more details, you will need to consult your favorite textbook.

Because the drug of choice is often very important to know, these drugs are included in the boxes that appear throughout the ...

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