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Learn Pharmacology Online

Get an in-depth look at how drugs and other therapeutics can be used to treat and prevent diseases.

In HMX Fundamentals Pharmacology, you’ll learn about the key principles governing what the body does to a drug and, in turn, what a drug does to the body – along the way, you’ll understand how physicians use this knowledge in daily patient care.

This online certificate course is led by Harvard Medical School faculty and features:

  • detailed animations and illustrations of medical concepts
  • clinical application videos including real doctor-patient interactions
  • ongoing, rigorous assessments to ensure content mastery

Learn more about the course:

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Course Information

Upcoming course periods

September 3 – November 15, 2024 | Apply now through August 13
Partial tuition waiver application deadline: Tuesday, June 28 at 12 noon US ET (HMX Fundamentals only)

January 14 – March 28, 2025 | Application opens August 14
April 15 – June 27, 2025 | Application opens December 11

Course length

Each course is 10 weeks long. New lessons are released weekly, and material remains available until the course closes. Expect to spend 3-6 hours per course per week.

Course cost

US$800 for an individual course

Partial tuition waivers are available.

What Learners Say

Samantha Petzer

Samantha Petzer

Pharmacy graduate

“I thought it was really an awesome way to put into context how concepts can be applied in real clinical practice.”

Meher Muhammad Zeeshan

Meher Muhammad Zeeshan

University of Pécs, Hungary

“The most helpful thing I found was the clinical scenarios. They brought us to the clinical areas and they would explain everything with different patients and especially about the mechanisms of action and drug development.”

Ganzell Mills

Ganzell Mills

Pharmacy technician

“I really loved how it was delivered because as soon as I finish one lesson [there’s] a small quiz, and by doing that you retain a lot of the information.”

Course Topics


  • Course introduction
  • Meet the faculty
  • High-level overview

Pharmacology and Therapeutics

  • Drug nomenclature
  • Drug classes
  • Drug modalities
  • Routes of administration

Pharmacokinetics I

  • Absorption
  • Bioavailability
  • Distribution
  • Body compartments
  • Volume of distribution

Pharmacokinetics II

  • Phase 1 and 2 reactions
  • First-pass metabolism
  • Excretion
  • First- and zero-order kinetics
  • Therapeutic window

Targets of Drug Action

  • Common drug mechanisms
  • Receptors, enzymes, ion channels, and transporters
  • New drug mechanisms
  • Protein-based, gene-based, and cell-based therapies


  • Receptor and ligand binding
  • Dose response relationships
  • Individual variation
  • Pharmacogenetics

Drug Toxicity

  • Toxic and lethal dosing
  • Mechanisms of drug toxicity
  • Drug interactions
  • Adverse drug reactions

Drug Discovery and Development

  • Drug discovery and design
  • Preclinical drug development
  • Clinical drug development

Course Instructors

Kate McDonnell-Dowling, HMX Pharmacology Course Lead

Kate McDonnell-Dowling, PhD

Course Lead
Lecturer in Biological Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology, Harvard Medical School
Curriculum Fellow in Online Learning

James P. Rathmell, Harvard Medical School

James P. Rathmell, MD

Primary Clinical Faculty
Leroy D. Vandam Professor of Anesthesia, Harvard Medical School
Chair of the Department of Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital

David E. Golan, Harvard Medical School

David E. Golan, MD, PhD

Primary Advising Faculty
Professor of Biological Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology, Harvard Medical School
Dean for Research Operations and Global Programs, Harvard Medical School
George R. Minot Professor of Medicine, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women’s Hospital