Dr. Brendan Stamper: Linking the Lab to Patient Care
Associate Professor Brendan Stamper is training the next generation of pharmacists — some of whom, like him, will devote much of their careers to critical drug research.
At Pacific University’s School of Pharmacy, Stamper, who has a PhD in medicinal chemistry, studies how the chemical structure of drugs impacts their effects on the body, particularly when it comes to toxicity. His current research into acetaminophen has broad implications.
Acetaminophen, the active ingredient in pain relievers like Tylenol, is considered relatively safe at recommended doses. But taking high doses of it can lead to liver damage or failure.
More than 50,000 Americans visit the emergency room each year after overdosing on acetaminophen, an ingredient in more than 600 medicines. Problems often arise when patients take both prescribed and over-the-counter drugs containing acetaminophen, without realizing the total dosage is dangerously high.
Acetaminophen “is safe when used appropriately, but overdose cases are quite common because it’s used in a lot of different medications,” Stamper said, adding that his research focuses in part on how the liver responds to high doses of acetaminophen.
“If you can identify patterns as to how that toxicity occurs, you can develop drugs or treatments to prevent the toxicity from happening,” Stamper said.
The role of pharmacists, he said, continues to evolve beyond filling prescriptions. In Oregon, for instance, pharmacists who have undergone special training can now prescribe and dispense birth control, thanks to a state law that took effect in 2016. Oregon was the second state, behind California, to enact such a law.
Pharmacists are also increasingly involved in so-called translational research, which focuses on bringing research breakthroughs to the health care market, Stamper said.
Pacific is at the forefront of preparing pharmacy students for new opportunities in their field. Its School of Pharmacy, part of the College of Health Professions, offers the only three-year doctor of pharmacy in the Pacific Northwest.
Students can also pursue a joint doctor of pharmacy and master of science in pharmaceutical sciences (PharmD/MS) that includes an additional year-long, research-focused curriculum designed to train clinicians in the craft of research.
Or, students can pursue a joint PharmD and master of healthcare administration degree designed to prepare pharmacists for careers requiring expertise in both pharmacy and business theories and principles — training students, Stamper said, “to become entrepreneurs and leaders in healthcare settings.