Molecular Pharmacology is the branch of medicine and biology concerned with the study of drug action, where a drug can be broadly defined as any man-made, natural, or endogenous (within the body) molecule which exerts a biochemical and/or physiological effect on the cell, tissue, organ, or organism. More specifically, it is the study of the interactions that occur between a living organism and chemicals that affect normal or abnormal biochemical function. If substances have medicinal properties, they are considered pharmaceuticals.
Radiopharmacology is the study and preparation of radiopharmaceuticals, which are radioactive pharmaceuticals. Radiopharmaceuticals are used in the field of nuclear medicine as tracers in the diagnosis and treatment of many diseases. Many radiopharmaceuticals use technetium-99m (Tc-99m) which has many useful properties as a gamma-emitting tracer nuclide. In the book Technetium a total of 31 different radiopharmaceuticals based on Tc-99m are listed for imaging and functional studies of the brain, myocardium, thyroid, lungs, liver, gallbladder, kidneys, skeleton, blood and tumors.
The term radioisotope has historically been used to refer to all radiopharmaceuticals, and this usage remains common. Technically, however, many radiopharmaceuticals incorporate a radioactive tracer atom into a larger pharmaceutically-active molecule, which is localized in the body, after which the radionuclide tracer atom allows it to be easily detected with a gamma camera or similar gamma imaging device. An example is fludeoxyglucose in which fluorine-18 is incorporated into deoxyglucose. Some radioisotopes (for example gallium-67, gallium-68, and radioiodine) are used directly as soluble ionic salts, without further modification. This use relies on the chemical and biological properties of the radioisotope itself, to localize it within the body.