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Pharmaceutical Chemistry Versus Medicinal Chemistry

Published: April 13th, 2015

Category: articles

Students looking to get their master’s degrees may be wondering: What is the difference between medicinal chemistry and pharmaceutical chemistry?

To start, some people do use these two terms interchangeably. When comparing them side by side, however, there are some differences between pharmaceutical chemistry and medicinal chemistry.

Both disciplines study drugs. Medicinal chemistry is focused on drug design and chemical synthesis. Pharmaceutical chemistry also studies drug design and synthesis, but takes it a step further with the process of bringing new drugs to market. There are also elements of biomedical analysis and pharmacology in pharmaceutical chemistry. Pharmaceutical chemistry can be considered a more broad area of study because it involves medicinal chemistry and more.

Pharmaceutical Chemistry

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At its core, pharmaceutical chemistry is the study and development of new drugs. It involves cures and remedies for diseases, analytical techniques, pharmacology, metabolism, quality assurance, and drug chemistry. Many pharmaceutical chemistry students will later work in a lab. Pharmaceutical chemistry leads to careers in drug development, biotechnology, pharmaceutical companies, research facilities, and more.

Studying pharmaceutical chemistry allows students to contribute to life-saving remedies, enhance the speed of delivery of new medications, and help others. Pharmaceutical chemistry also includes other branches of study such as pharmacokinetics, pharmacodynamics, and drug metabolism. These are important for learning the effects that drugs have on the body.

In the University of Florida’s online master’s degree in pharmaceutical chemistry, there is a medicinal chemistry course. Students will learn the basics of analyzing existing drugs and potential new drugs. Pharmaceutical chemistry courses develop expertise in formulation and drug delivery. Students will learn how to create new drug molecules, formulate drugs, and bring them to market through all stages—pre-clinical, IND application, clinical trials, and so on.

The University of Florida’s online master’s degree in pharmaceutical chemistry is open to pharmacists, but students are not required to have their Pharm.D in order to enroll. The pharmaceutical chemistry program focuses on non-dispensing areas of pharmacy and is more involved in research aspects than the customer service and patient care responsibilities of a traditional pharmacist.

Medicinal Chemistry

According to the American Chemical Society, medicinal chemistry blends synthetic organic chemistry, biochemistry, and pharmacology. It focuses on the bio-active molecules and pharmaceutical agents. Medicinal chemistry involves analyzing existing drugs and potential new drugs.

Medicinal chemistry can be considered a narrower field than pharmaceutical chemistry because its focal point is the chemistry of drugs, from new medicines to illicit substances. Pharmaceutical chemistry, on the other hand, studies drugs and drug discovery, and it covers the process of taking drugs to market.

Medicinal chemists usually work as scientists in lab environments. Each lab is different, but a typical lab and job in medicinal chemistry involves using synthetic organic chemistry skills, analytical instrumentation skills, and an understanding of biology and how drugs work. Other potential career paths include process or formulation chemistry, quality control, or quality assurance. Non-laboratory career possibilities are regulatory affairs, intellectual property, or project management—all of which are potential careers for pharmaceutical chemistry students, as well.

Medicinal chemistry is covered during the course of study in the University of Florida’s pharmaceutical chemistry online master’s degree program. The medicinal chemistry course covers methods used in the synthesis of organic compounds with particular attention to medicinal products and illicit substances. There are modules and discussions that relate to current issues and the synthesis of medicinal products.