In the past pharmacokinetic principles were taught by a combination of lectures and hands-on experiments. Drugs were administered to laboratory animals or to student volunteers, then blood or urine samples were collected and analyzed over a specified time period. With progressing ethical standards the use of animals or student volunteers for the purpose of pharmacological training has become much less common. As a result, students are currently limited to listening to lectures and using simulation software to learn about pharmacokinetic principles. There is a clear lack of opportunity for hands-on problem-based learning in the area of pharmacokinetics.
A team of researchers at the University of Alberta has now developed the Drug Administration Modeler, a robust and cost-effective teaching tool that fills this need. It allows medical, nursing, pharmacy and life sciences students to perform realistic pharmacokinetic studies. A variety of drug administration scenarios and regimes can be simulated. The modeler features a hydraulic circuit composed of flexible tubing and a series of pumps and compartments that imitate the cardiovascular system, relevant organs/tissue and respective pharmacological processes. The “drug”, in practice a dye, can be administered via “oral dosing” into the stomach compartment, or “parenterally” through an injection port. Following drug administration, students sample the “blood” or “urine”, analyze the colour of the sample to quantify drug concentration, plot the data, and analyze graphs to obtain relevant pharmacokinetic parameters from slopes and areas under curves. When used in problem-based learning units in higher education, students were shown to gain an enhanced understanding of pharmacokinetic principles.