New York: McGraw-Hill; 2005.
2021 pages. Price $155.95


This textbook of therapeutics was first published in 1940, so it is not surprising that the original authors were not involved in the 11th edition. The book is now made up of chapters written by individual authors, creating a challenge for the editors. All but three of the authors work in the USA, but the textbook has an international appeal.

As in previous editions, the book is divided into sections dealing with drugs that act on each of the body's systems. There have been a few changes in this format such as the section on vitamins being absorbed into other chapters, and the chapter on the treatment of poisoning being moved into the toxicology section. New chapters include pharmacogenetics and drug metabolism.

Several sections begin with a chapter that reviews the physiology of a body system. In other sections these reviews are incorporated within the chapters. The usual pattern is to explain how a class of drugs acts and then to briefly discuss individual members of that class. The explanations of mechanisms of action are usually easy to understand especially when accompanied by diagrams. There is a bibliography at the end of each chapter for people who want to check the original research.

The problem with any textbook is that parts of it quickly go out of date. This edition was compiled recently enough to include the downfall of rofecoxib.

Unless it is already available in the USA, a new drug marketed in Australia may not be included in Goodman and Gilman. (Australian Prescriber is an up-to-date source of brief information on new drugs.) However, the book is a useful resource. It does not need to be on every prescriber's desk, but it is a very helpful reference for learning, or recalling, how drugs work.