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The Science of Medicines

Learn the science behind how and why medicines work, and what can improve patient's treatment, with this online course.

69,310 enrolled on this course

The Science of Medicines

What do you know about the medicines you take?

The world’s growing population faces major health issues, and medicines are a primary pillar to effect better health. Learn about the science of key medicines used to manage heart disease, depression, diabetes, pain control and smoking cessation.

See each health condition through the eyes of the patient

Week by week you will study a new medicine and health area, starting by looking through the eyes of an affected patient. You will learn the mechanics of a disease and how it affects the world’s population. You will then delve into the science of the medicine to explore the medicine’s chemistry, how it works in the body and why it is formulated in a certain way to become the medicine you see on the pharmacy shelf.

Learn from a diverse team of experts

This course is designed by a team of experts who focus on improving education for pharmacy students at Monash University, Australia. As pharmacists and scientists they bridge the interface between science and the patient.

A valuable course for patients, careers and healthcare workers

The course will be particularly relevant for those who are living with one of the health conditions covered, but it is also extremely valuable for those who care either professionally or personally for people affected by the conditions, as it covers practical patient tips drawn from the understanding of the science.


You can read more about this course in Ian Larson’s article “How much do you know about the medicines you are taking?” on the FutureLearn blog.

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What topics will you cover?

  • The composition and roles of different members of a patient’s healthcare team.
  • An overview of how the human body works and the key systems within it.
  • An overview of the fundamentals of chemistry: elements, bonds, molecular structures and intermolecular interaction.
  • The importance of the chemical design of medicines to their treatment of specific conditions (pharmacology).
  • The importance of the design, delivery and dosage of medicines to their effectiveness (pharmaceutics).
  • Diabetes and how hypoglycaemics work to treat it.
  • Heart disease and how atorvastatin works to treat it.
  • Pain and how morphine works to treat it.
  • Smoking and how treatments for nicotine addiction work.
  • Depression and how antidepressants work to treat it.

When would you like to start?

Start straight away and learn at your own pace. If the course hasn’t started yet you’ll see the future date listed below.

  • Available now

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Describe the physiological impact of common medical conditions on the human body.
  • Investigate the chemical structures of modern medicines.
  • Explain how the chemical structures of medicines make them effective in treating specific medical conditions (pharmacology).
  • Explore how the design, delivery and dosage of medicines influence their effectiveness (pharmaceutics).
  • Discuss the human aspects of taking medicines, including side effects and addiction.

Who is the course for?

No previous knowledge is necessary. Being a course about pharmacy, we discuss a number of important chemistry concepts in the course. If you haven’t studied chemistry for a long time, don’t worry - supporting references will be provided for extra background where needed.

What do people say about this course?

"This course was one of the best MOOCs I have done and I have done a few. The videos and the graphics explained everything really clearly and I learnt a few things reading the posts from my fellow students. Pharmaceutics was something I had not learnt before so I especially enjoyed that part. I would love to do another version of this course, covering other health conditions."

Who will you learn with?

Ian is a Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences at Monash University. He is widely recognised for his innovations in student learning in the pharmaceutical sciences.

Who developed the course?

Monash University

Monash University is one of Australia’s leading universities, ranked in the world’s top 1% by the Times Higher Education World University Rankings. It was established in Melbourne in 1958.

  • Established

    1958
  • Location

    Melbourne, Australia
  • World ranking

    Top 60Source: QS World University Rankings 2021

Learning on FutureLearn

Your learning, your rules

  • Courses are split into weeks, activities, and steps, but you can complete them as quickly or slowly as you like
  • Learn through a mix of bite-sized videos, long- and short-form articles, audio, and practical activities
  • Stay motivated by using the Progress page to keep track of your step completion and assessment scores

Join a global classroom

  • Experience the power of social learning, and get inspired by an international network of learners
  • Share ideas with your peers and course educators on every step of the course
  • Join the conversation by reading, @ing, liking, bookmarking, and replying to comments from others

Map your progress

  • As you work through the course, use notifications and the Progress page to guide your learning
  • Whenever you’re ready, mark each step as complete, you’re in control
  • Complete 90% of course steps and all of the assessments to earn your certificate

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