Pharmacology for Technicians PTCB Test Prep

Must-Know PTCB Pharmacology for Technicians!

Nov 28th, 2020
ptcb pharmacology for technicians

PTCB Pharmacology for Technicians

Studying pharmacology can be difficult, especially at first. When you begin to learn facts about pharmacology, the subject is so overwhelming it can feel like swimming against a permanent tide of knowledge.

You become overwhelmed, confused, and in the end, your confidence sinks.

To succeed at the pharmacology knowledge domain of the PTCB test, students must become acquainted with the fundamental facts – about the primary mechanisms of how drugs work, about side effects and drug interactions, and about what conditions medicines are used to treat.

It takes time, that’s for sure.

But by applying yourself and by taking PTCB practice test questions, that knowledge becomes embedded more and more in your long-term memory stores. And, if we are honest, learning about medicines is interesting! After all, this is the subject that explores hundreds of medicines that, on a daily basis, contribute toward saving many tens of thousands of lives.

Below, we have put together a rapid revision guide on the top facts that fall under PTCB pharmacology for technicians. Some of these facts you will recognize, others not. But that’s the point of this review – to learn about your current knowledge gaps and how to plug them and direct your study in a productive and effective new direction.

Top 50 Facts about Pharmacology!

Fact Must-Know Pharmacology!
#1 Proton-pump inhibitors (omeprazole) and H2 receptor antagonists (famotidine) are used to treat conditions that involve lowering gastric acid production – such as dyspepsia and GERD.
#2 An agonist is a drug that binds to a receptor and triggers its natural response, whereas an antagonist is a drug that binds to a receptor and blocks its natural response.
#3 Statins are drugs used to lower blood cholesterol levels. Examples include atorvastatin, simvastatin, and lovastatin. Statins work by inhibiting the enzyme HMG-CoA reductase. Side effects include muscle aches and pains and elevated liver enzymes. Patients may be advised to avoid grapefruit juice, depending on which statin they are taking, as this can increase the risk of side effects!
#4 Pharmacokinetics is defined as how the body affects a drug; whereas pharmacodynamics is defined as how a drug affects the body.
#5 Beta-lactams are antibacterial drugs. The beta-lactam ring, a 4-membered ring, confers antibacterial properties to these drugs by disrupting bacterial cell wall synthesis. Drug classes whose members contain a beta-lactam ring include penicillins and cephalosporins.
#6 Water-soluble vitamins include vitamins B and C, meaning they need to be constantly replaced as they are eliminated from the body. Fat-soluble vitamins are stored and include vitamins A, D, E, and K. Because they are stored, they do not need to be replenished as often.
#7 Alkylating agents are drugs used in the treatment of a wide range of cancers. They interfere (via alkylation) the DNA synthesis/replication process. Examples include cyclophosphamide, ifosfamide, busulfan, and
#8 Z-drugs are used in the treatment of insomnia where patients find it difficult to induce and maintain sleep. Examples include zolpidem, zaleplon, and zopiclone.
#9 Bisphosphonates are drugs used to treat bone disorders, such as osteoporosis. Examples include alendronic acid and pamidronate. Bisphosphonates should be taken on an empty stomach in the morning, 30 minutes before food or other medicines. The patient should remain upright and take a full glass of water. This is necessary to avoid esophagitis.
#10 Antiemetic drugs are used to treat nausea/vomiting (eg. cyclizine) Analgesics are used to treat pain (eg. morphine) Diuretics are used to promote water and electrolyte loss (eg. furosemide) Aquaretics promote water loss ONLY (eg. tolvaptan) Eugeroic drugs promote wakefulness and alertness (eg. modafinil) Antineoplastic drugs are used to treat cancer (eg. cisplatin)
#11 Anticholinergic side effects include constipation, blurred vision, dizziness, urinary retention, and confusion. Drugs that block the neurotransmitter, acetylcholine, causes these kinds of side effects.
#12 Beta-blockers can be readily identified as they all contain the suffix -lol. Examples include metoprolol, bisoprolol, and esmolol.
#13 Anticonvulsant drugs are used to treat seizures. Examples include phenytoin, valproate, carbamazepine, ethosuximide, zonisamide, and topiramate.
#14 Indications” is a term that refers to what drugs are used to treat. For example – acetaminophen is used to treat pain. “Pain” is therefore an indication of acetaminophen. Similarly, seizures is an indication of the antiepileptic drug, phenytoin.
#15 There are many different classes of insulin, depending on how fast they work. Short-acting insulins include lisprol, aspart, and glulisine. Intermediate-acting insulins include isophane insulin, whereas long-acting insulins include insulins detemir and glargine.
#16 Diuretics – which promote water loss and urination – are advised to be taken in the morning, to avoid night-time urination (nocturia).
#17 Alpha blockers are used to treat conditions such as prostate problems in men, such as difficulty urinating, as well as hypertension (often when other medicines have proven ineffective). Examples of alpha blockers include doxazosin, terazosin, and tamsulosin.  
#18 Memantine is a drug used to treat Alzheimer’s disease. It is the active ingredient of the medicine, Namenda.
#19 Antibacterial drugs can be bacteriostatic – where they prevent bacterial replication – or they can be bactericidal – where they actively kill bacterial cells.
#20 Opioid analgesics work by acting at mu receptor agonists. Examples of opioids include codeine, dihydrocodeine, meperidine, tramadol, and morphine.
#21 Iron supplements, antacids, and dairy produce reduces the absorption and efficacy of levothyroxine; a drug used to treat hypothyroidism.
#22 Metformin is an oral hypoglycemic drug used in the treatment of both type 2 diabetes and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Unlike other oral hypoglycemic drugs which can cause weight gain, metformin can cause weight loss. Metformin is the active ingredient of, Glucophage and belongs to the biguanide class of drugs.
#23 Tendon rupture/damage is a notable side effect of fluoroquinolone antibacterial drugs – such as ciprofloxacin and moxifloxacin.
#24 Sildenafil is the active ingredient of the medicine, Viagra; a drug used in the treatment of erectile dysfunction. Sildenafil works by inhibiting the enzyme, phosphodiesterase type 5 (PDE5). Examples of other PDE5 inhibitors include tadalafil and vardenafil. PDE5 inhibitors should be avoided with nitrates as the combination can produce severe hypotension!
$25 Benzodiazepines work by enhancing the binding of the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA to the GABA A receptor. Benzodiazepines can be identified as their suffixes include -zolam and -azepam. Drugs include midazolam, diazepam, and lorazepam.
#26 Green-leafy vegetables contain vitamin K and so should be avoided in patients taking warfarin. Warfarin is an anticoagulant and vitamin K opposes the anticoagulant effects of warfarin.
#27 Antiretroviral drugs are used to treat HIV/AIDSs as part of HAART therapy (highly-active anti-retroviral drugs). Drug classes that fall under the category of antiretroviral drugs include reverse transcriptase inhibitors, protease inhibitors, and integrase inhibitors.
#28 Medicines that target ergosterol are antifungal drugs. Ergosterol is an essential part of the fungal cell membrane. Azole antifungals include ketoconazole, clotrimazole, and voriconazole.
#29 Calcium channel blockers are used to treat hypertension and arrhythmias. Examples include dihydropyridine CCBs – such as amlodipine and nifedipine and felodipine – and non-dihydropyridine CCBs such as verapamil and diltiazem.
#30 How a drug works is referred to as its “mechanism of action”. For example, ACE inhibitors work by inhibiting the angiotensin converting enzyme – the enzyme that converts angiotensin I into angiotensin II. This has the effect of lowering blood pressure.
#31 Amiodarone is a drug used to treat arrhythmias, or abnormal heart rhythm disorders. Amiodarone is structurally related to iodine, hence its name “amIODarone”.
#32 Antipsychotic drugs by inhibiting dopamine D2 receptors. Examples of antipsychotic drugs include haloperidol, clozapine, olanzapine, and risperidone.
#33 NSAIDs are medicines used to treat pain and inflammation. NSAID means non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and includes naproxen, ibuprofen, celecoxib, diclofenac, and aspirin. Acetaminophen is NOT classified as an NSAID!
#34 DMARDs are drugs used in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis (as well as other autoimmune disorders). Examples include methotrexate, etanercept, cyclosporine, and infliximab.
#35 Teratogenic drugs are drugs that cause harm to the developing fetus and so should be avoided by pregnant women. Examples of teratogenic drugs include valproate, ACE inhibitors, and thalidomide.
#36 Triptans are medicines used to treat migraine and cluster headaches. Examples include sumatriptan, zolmitriptan, and eletriptan.
#37 Drugs used in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease include levodopa (in combination with a dopa decarboxylase inhibitor to ensure as much levodopa makes it to the brain without being degraded outside of the brain); COMT inhibitors such as entacapone and tolcapone; and dopamine agonists – such as bromocriptine, pramipexole, ropinirole, and cabergoline. MAO-B inhibitors, such as selegiline, may also be used.
#38 Patients taking MAO inhibitors must avoid tyramine-rich foods such as soy sauce, beer, aged meats and cheeses, and sauerkraut, among many other foods/drinks.
#39 Aspirin is used to treat pain and inflammation. At lower doses, aspirin is used for its antiplatelet effects.
#40 SSRIs are medicines used to treat depression, anxiety, and panic disorder. Examples include fluoxetine, paroxetine, sertraline, citalopram, escitalopram, and fluvoxamine.
#41 Antibacterial protein synthesis inhibitors include aminoglycosides, tetracyclines, and macrolides: Aminoglycosides are an antibacterial drug class whose members include gentamicin and tobramycin. Side effects of aminoglycosides include ototoxicity and kidney damage (nephrotoxicity). Side effects of tetracyclines include tooth discoloration, enamel hypoplasia, and phototoxicity. Examples of tetracyclines include tetracycline, doxycycline, and minocycline. Dairy products reduce the efficacy and absorption of tetracyclines. Examples of macrolides include clarithromycin, fidaxomicin, erythromycin, and telithromycin.
$42 Beta-2 agonists are used in the treatment of asthma and COPD. Agonism at beta-2 receptors causes smooth muscle relaxation in the lungs. Examples of beta-2 agonists include albuterol and formoterol.
#43 Expectorants are drugs that promote the elimination of sputum in the treatment of productive coughs. Guaifenesin is one such example. Decongestants improve nasal congestion in colds/sinus infections. Phenylephrine and pseudoephedrine are examples of decongestants. Antihistamines improve symptoms of allergic rhinitis and include drugs such as diphenhydramine, loratadine, and cetirizine. Antitussive drugs are used to treat cough. Examples include codeine and dextromethorphan.
#44 Heparin is an anticoagulant medicine used to treat/prevent blood clots. Low-molecular weight heparins (LMWHs) are a drug class related to the structure/function of heparin and include drugs such as enoxaparin and dalteparin.
#45 The half-life is the time it takes for 50% of a drug to be removed from the body. For example: if a drug has a half-life of 6-hours and the patient takes the drug at 12pm, then by 6pm, the body will contain 50% of the drug and by 12am, only 25% of the drug remains in the body.
#46 Side effects of ACE inhibitors – such as ramipril and perindopril and captopril – include elevated potassium levels (hyperkalemia) and a persistent dry cough. Because ACE inhibitors increase potassium levels, they should be avoided with drugs that also cause hyperkalemia including trimethoprim and potassium supplements.
#47 Medicines have two parts: an active ingredient and excipients The active ingredient is the therapeutic element (i.e. the drug) Excipients are non-active ingredients – such as preservatives, vehicles, and flavoring agents – that make up the rest of the medicine.
#48 Setrons are medicines used to treat/prevent nausea and vomiting, particularly in patients receiving chemotherapy. Examples of setrons include ondansetron and granisetron.
#49 Tamoxifen is a drug used in the treatment of breast cancer. It is a member of the SERM class of drugs – Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulators.
#50 Drugs that are administered via the buccal route are placed between the gums and cheek.

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PTCB Test Prep Author


Elaine Walker

Elaine joined PTCB Test Prep in 2017, currently serving as the lead product development manager overseeing both course development and quality improvement. Mrs. Walker is a graduate of California State University and has worked as a pharmacy technician for over twenty years – with particular interests in pediatric pharmacy, extemporaneous compounding, and hospital pharmacy. Over the past 8-years, she has helped prepare thousands of students for the PTCB examination.