Volume 105, Issue 1 p. 45-48
Open Access

The IUPHAR Pharmacology Education Project

Elena Faccenda

Elena Faccenda

Centre for Discovery Brain Sciences, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK

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Simon Maxwell

Simon Maxwell

Clinical Pharmacology Unit, Edinburgh Medical School, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK

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John L. Szarek

Corresponding Author

John L. Szarek

Medical Education Department, Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine, Scranton, Pennsylvania, USA

Correspondence: John L. Szarek ([email protected])Search for more papers by this author
First published: 26 December 2018
Citations: 5

Online learning, an essential component of most traditional contact-based educational programs, must be of high quality to contribute effectively to learning. The availability of first-class web-based materials is particularly valued by both learners and educators in resource-poor nations. In this Practice article, we introduce the International Union of Basic and Clinical Pharmacology (IUPHAR) Pharmacology Education Project (PEP) (https://www.pharmacologyeducation.org/), a freely accessible online learning resource intended to support education and training in pharmacological sciences worldwide.


The project developed out of the need to deliver a web-based resource with a clear educational focus as a complement to the IUPHAR/British Pharmacological Society (BPS) Guide to Pharmacology (GToPdb) (http://www.guidetopharmacology.org/). Although access to many online teaching/learning resources is restricted by a paywall, the PEP vision was to develop a resource that continues the open-source ethos embodied by GToPdb, in which students and educators anywhere in the world can find curated pharmacology content and be sure that what they find is reliable and of high quality.

Seed funding from the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics (ASPET) allowed engagement with the website development team at the University of Edinburgh, and this led to the construction of the PEP website as it exists now, using the Drupal content-management framework.

The PEP was developed as a simple, attractive, and easily searchable website that supports students of the pharmacological and other related biomedical sciences, such as medicine, nursing, and pharmacy, as well as those who teach them. Since going live in April 2016, there has been a sustained growth in visitors to the PEP with almost 15,000 visits in September 2018. The growth in visitors and global usage since 2016 is depicted in Figure 1. In an addition, the PEP maintains a dedicated YouTube channel and SlideShare account, which contain videos and presentations created especially for the Project (https://www.pharmacologyeducation.org/social-media). Currently, there are 19 slide sets in the SlideShare account, which have been viewed almost 11,000 times and downloaded almost 900 times over the past year, attesting further to the value provided by PEP to students, educators, and researchers in pharmacology. Three of these are under the section Pharmacology, and the other 13 are under the section Drugs (see below).

Details are in the caption following the image
Visitors to the Pharmacology Education Project (PEP) since “go live” date in 2016 determined using Google's online tracking analytics. (a) Month-to-month growth. (b) Global user distribution.

Continued expansion and maintenance of the PEP is funded solely by contributions/donations made by international pharmacological societies via IUPHAR (currently, the Chinese, Japanese, and Hungarian societies are supporting this work).


The PEP website is arranged in top level “Sections”—Home, About, Pharmacology, Clinical Pharmacology, Drugs, Therapeutics, and Resources. Figure 2 is a screen-grab of the website's home page and shows the Section tabs horizontally below the PEP logo.

Details are in the caption following the image
Screen-grab of the home page of the International Union of Basic and Clinical Pharmacology (IUPHAR) Pharmacology Education Project showing the top-level Section tabs (Home, About, Pharmacology, Clinical Pharmacology, Drugs, Therapeutics, and Resources), Twitter feed, and News panels.

The About section provides information about the PEP's Editorial Board and individuals who have contributed content to the resource. This is where users can find out how to contact the team, find a description of how content and links are gathered, evaluated, and organized, and how to contribute to the Project.

The Pharmacology section is where users will find materials dedicated to the basic principles of pharmacology, which are listed in “Modules,” including Pharmacodynamics, Dose-response relationships, and separate modules for Drug absorption, distribution, metabolism, and excretion. Modules covering major pharmacological target groups, such as receptors, ion channels, and enzymes are also covered in this section. Autonomic pharmacology and pharmacology relevant to the parasympathetic and autonomic nervous systems appear in this section too. Modules open to reveal more detailed “Topics.” Each topic contains educational material in the form of text and pictorials, with inline hyperlinks and “Learning Resources,” which have been evaluated as being suitable for inclusion or have been provided to the PEP by the Editorial Board or by external contributors. Drug and target names are hyperlinked to GToPdb where possible. PubChem compound links are included for chemical entities that are not included in GToPdb.

The Section > Module > Topic structure and the inclusion of hyperlinks and Learning Resources is replicated throughout the other sections of the website, which are described below.

Clinical Pharmacology contains materials covering the basic principles of pharmacology as they apply to the treatment of human illness (e.g., clinical pharmacodynamics and pharmacokinetics), clinical pharmacology (e.g., adverse drug reactions, drug interactions, medication errors, adherence, pharmacogenetics, drug development, and appraisal), and toxicology. The aim of this section is to provide grounding in the knowledge and principles that underpin rational prescribing.

The Drugs section is divided into modules based on physiological systems and medical specialties. Within each module, drugs are generally grouped in a mechanism-based order, as exemplified by the drug families included as topics in the Drugs used in inflammation module (i.e., Antihistamines, Corticosteroids, Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), Aminosalicylates, and Leukotriene receptor antagonists).

Therapeutics is different from Drugs in that the modules within this section are disease-oriented rather than mechanism-based. For example, in the Eye disease module, we include a topic on Drugs for glaucoma, and in the Cardiovascular disease module there is a topic for Ischemic heart disease.

Resources contains a very useful glossary of pharmacologically relevant terms and abbreviations and has an area where we can include links to useful external resources.

Management team and editorial board

The PEP management team consists of the codirectors Dr. John Szarek (Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine, Scranton, PA), Professor Simon Maxwell (University of Edinburgh, UK), and the curator, Dr. Elena Faccenda (University of Edinburgh, UK). The codirectors oversee an international Editorial Board consisting of individuals having the commitment, expertise, and enthusiasm to drive the project forward. The Editorial Board members and their affiliations are: Elizabeth Davis (Monash University, AU), Fenghua Fu (School of Pharmacy, Yantai University, CN), Kuniaki Ishii (Yamagata University School of Medicine, JP), Kelly Karpa (Penn State College of Medicine, US); László Köles (Semmelweis University, HU), John Peters (University of Dundee, UK), and Chay-Hoon Tan (National University of Singapore, SG). The management team and Editorial Board work together to assure content on the website is relevant and accurate. The management team acknowledge invaluable support provided by several individuals and agencies, notably the IUPHAR Administrative Office (in particular Michael Spedding and Sam Enna) for their fund-raising endeavors on behalf of the PEP, American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics for their seed-funding, the international pharmacological societies, which support the PEP's continued existence, and to the 15 members of the pharmacology community who have contributed content to the PEP.


The IUPHAR-PEP team has developed an online pharmacology resource that is receiving increasing levels of user traffic year-on-year. Members of the Editorial Board are pharmacologists and clinical pharmacologists representing several countries and are responsible for reviewing the submissions, including the associated links. This ensures the fidelity of the content and allows ownership of the PEP by pharmacologists across the world. The PEP has received accolades from colleagues in the international pharmacology community. One example that succinctly summarizes what the IUPHAR-PEP team hoped to accomplish with the site came from a pharmacology educator in introducing the PEP to colleagues at their school, “I think it is a worthwhile endeavour to 1) contribute to the growth of this amazing resource; 2) use it with graduates (you know how hard it is to get students to read G&G [Goodman and Gilman's]); and 3) ‘boost’ our CV as experts in our specific area of interest.”

We encourage you, your students, and colleagues to use the site and become involved as an author and/or reviewer. Submitting content is easy. The online submission form facilitates the submission of content from individual Learning Resource links to fully developed topic information. The PEP team looks forward to working with the pharmacology community across the world in developing a robust website to aid education and research in pharmacology. The PEP is still a work in progress, and you will find areas annotated as “Under construction.” The PEP team actively solicits assistance from the pharmacological community at large to help them to accomplish their aims.

The PEP can be followed on Twitter using @PharmacologyEd.


No funding was received for this work.

Conflict of Interest/Disclosure

The authors declared no competing interests for this work.

  • [The copyright line for this article was changed on 04 July 2019 after original online publication].