Best pharmacology books for medical students

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Pharmacology requires you to understand both the pathomechanism of a given disease and how a drug can prevent, limit, or cure the disease. It also requires a certain amount of memorization to remember all the different classes and names of drugs.

This is where a solid textbook can come in handy, of which there are many. In order to narrow it down to the best, I have relied on my own research and experience. I have also gone through several book recommendations from medical universities around the globe.

I have 2 favorites that I can confidently recommend. The first is Katzung Basic & clinical pharmacology (link to Amazon). It’s a full-size textbook that covers everything you need for your subject. The second is Rang & Dale’s pharmacology (link to Amazon). Another one-stop shop for medical pharmacology.

Continue below to read my full reviews, and why I found these options to be the best.   

Remember that subjects are thought differently between universities. Thus, you should consult your university’s book recommendations. Even so, the books listed here should cover everything required for the average medical pharmacology course.

If you want to know more about the process I used to evaluate these books. You can read my article about evaluating medical textbooks.

Lippincotts illustrated review: Pharmacology

Lippincott’s illustrated review is a well-known, and highly appreciated book series among medical students. known for its selection of well-organized, easily read extensive review textbooks.

Its take on pharmacology is no different. Following the same recipe, it presents the material with its student-friendly, and digestible organization, style, and diagrams. 

This book has a lot going for it. Coming in at around 580 pages, it falls just short of being a full-sized textbook, but might very well fit the part.

At the same time, it’s short and concise enough to enable students to use it for basic comprehension as well as test prep review, including the USMLE. 

Whether used as a stand-alone textbook or complementary review book, this book will deliver. In addition, the attractive price makes it no less desirable.

Don’t take my word for it, follow this link to head over to amazon to get a closer look yourself and see the hundreds of reviews from satisfied customers. 

Lange Katzung & Trevor’s Pharmacology Examination and Board Review

This extensive review falls into the same category as Lippincott’s book.

While Prof. Katzung has done his best to trim down the material, you still end up with an almost 600-page book. Similar to Lippincotts, this is just short of a full textbook.

That being said, the book follows the same organization as its big brother, and while it is meant as a complement to the full textbook which I Recommend, this book can work as your standalone textbook.

At the same time, it allows for reviews, featuring hundreds of USMLE-style questions throughout the book, as well as in two Two comprehensive 100-question practice exams, which includes answers and explanations.

If your course allows it, this might be the only book you will need for the subject. Not only is it practical, but it will also save you money.

This book is affordable and offers good value. Click this link to head over to amazon to check its current price

Rang & Dale’s pharmacology

One of the clear student favorites, Rang & Dale’s Pharmacology is an excellent textbook for covering the basics, and then some, for your course.

Going through it, I get the impression that it is written for medical students and clinicians. Coming in at around 800 pages It is a student-friendly textbook that features more than 100 brand multiple-choice questions, which are great for USMLE review.

In terms of layout, it features a color-coded layout for fast navigation and cross-referencing.

For greater student yield, it also Clarifies complex concepts with Key Points boxes, Clinical Uses boxes, and full-color illustrations throughout the book. In essence, this is your one-stop-shop for pharmacology.

It is a little more expensive than its rival from Katzung but provides more than enough value to justify its price. Check the current price by clicking this link to head over to amazon.

Lange: Katzung Basic & clinical pharmacology

Extensive, full-size textbook spanning almost 1200 pages. It contains everything you need for your course while being able to remain an easily read book that most students find to be very clear and easy to understand. 

The textual information is supplemented with intuitive graphics and diagrams for better visual understanding.

The book also got you covered for the crucial for memorization of drugs that are laid out on clean and readable tables.

The book has an almost lecture-like organization that takes a systems-based approach to the subject. Under each organ system (e.g. CNS, endocrine system) all groups of drugs acting on that system are systematically presented in an orderly fashion.

This book will provide everything you need to succeed in the subject at an affordable price.

To check out its current price as well as tons of reviews from satisfied students around the world, click this link to head over to Amazon

Goodman and Gilman’s Manual of Pharmacology and Therapeutics

By many considered the ‘Bible’ of Pharmacology. This book is a heavyweight both in terms of its in-depth material, but also its actual weight.

Weighing almost 7 pounds, this book is literally about the size and weight of a brick. 

While the book itself is amazing, it assumes a pretty solid understanding of a lot of concepts. It is the type of book the professor loves but the average student not so much.

Also, most students can find a better use of the money you have to fork out to get this one, which is quite a lot.

That is why I don’t recommend this for the average med student. However, If you enjoy, heavy, in-depth textbooks, you should definitely check it out on Amazon

BRS Pharmacology

Similar to Lippincotts, The BRS review book series from Wolters Kluwer is a student favorite.

Following the well-known format, the BRS take on pharmacology results in a strong review book of almost 400 pages.

While the material is trimmed and compressed, it still includes lots of useful tables and diagrams to increase student comprehension.

Similar to other books in the series, this one also contains collections of USMLE-style questions at the end of each chapter.

the clean BRS layout makes it really easy to use, either as an addition to lecture material or as a test prep review book. Factors in its decent price level, this book offers a lot of value.

Don’t take my word for it, check it out yourself by clicking this link to head over to Amazon. Here you can see the layout for yourself, and see the current price

Clinical Pharmacology made ridiculously simple

Yet Another helpful book from the made ridiculously simple series. Although I will argue it’s hard to make pharmacology ridiculously simple under any condition, this book comes pretty close. 

This book is written in the simplest language possible when trying to explaining the principles of pharmacology and narrow the transition from the classroom to clinic.

It also features lots of drawn tables and diagrams. This makes it an effective, but light-hearted and student-friendly read.

Overall it is a cheap and concise review of the most important principles in clinical pharmacology, which can be a great resource for any medical student, especially the ones struggling with it.

Follow this link to head over to Amazon to check it out yourself and see its current price. 

Closing remarks

I hope this article helped you on your quest for finding the pharmacology book that is right for you.

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