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Pharmacy Glossary

Pharmacy Terms

Use this helpful reference to navigate key pharmacy terms and concepts.

[ A ]

Antibiotic Stewardship
The effort to measure and improve how antibiotics are prescribed by clinicians and used by patients. Improving antibiotic prescribing and use is critical to effectively treat infections, protect patients from harms caused by unnecessary antibiotic use, and combat antibiotic resistance. See also the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

[ B ]

Biopharmaceutical industry
The scientific field focused on studying the molecular, cellular, and genetic principles that play a role in drug development.

The modification of living organisms tailored for specific needs. An example would be the designing of organisms for the creation of antibiotics.

Brand name
A name given to a medication by the manufacturer that often becomes synonymous to its identity, for example, Ritalin.

[ C ]

Clinical trials

A multi-phased process from drug discovery through post-marketing surveillance to test and monitor the effectiveness and safety of medications or medical devices on large groups of people.

Community pharmacy
A community based pharmacy where the pharmacist does compounding, dispensing and documentation of prescriptions in addition to patient counseling and sometimes consultations with doctors.

The act of creating drug formulas that are specially tailored to patients; for example, liquid versions of medications normally available only in tablet/capsule/caplet form.

[ D ]

To prepare and distribute drugs.

Dose/ Dosage
The specified amount and quantity of the drug to be taken at one time.

Drug discovery (Medicinal Chemistry)
The process by which drugs are discovered and/or designed. The process of drug discovery involves the identification of candidates, synthesis, characterization, screening, and assays for therapeutic efficacy. Once a compound has shown its value in various tests, it will begin the process of drug development prior to clinical trials.

Drug therapy
The treatment of disease through the use of drugs; also referred to as pharmacotherapy.

[ E ]

The ability of a drug to produce the desired effect.

[ F ]

A pharmacologic substance prepared according to a formula.

[ G ]

Generic nonproprietary
A drug name not protected by a trademark (like aspirin), usually descriptive of the drug’s chemical structure.

[ H ]

Hospital pharmacy
Hospital pharmacy often involves all the different components of a hospital system including pharmaceutical supply and delivery, financing, hospital administration (management oversight) and direct patient care.

[ L ]

An informational tag that specifies ingredients, doses, warnings, and potential drug interactions (drugs that should not be taken at the same time).

[ M ]

Mail order
Mail order services allow individuals to receive prescriptions conveniently through the mail. Many services also offer telephonic connection with a pharmacist to provide virtual pharmacy support and advice.

Managed care pharmacy
Managed care pharmacy involves a number of clinical and drug management services for members who are part of an insurance plan. Because it is important that insurance plans offer high quality care while also balancing the economic needs of all its members, managed care pharmacy also involves cost management and analysis of the members’ treatment and care outcomes.

[ O ]

Oath of a Pharmacist
This Oath is taken by pharmacy students upon graduation. By taking this Oath, they voluntarily vow to dedicate themselves to a “lifetime of service to others through the profession of pharmacy.”

Over-the-Counter (OTC)
Medication that does not require a prescription.

[ P ]

A discipline in the health sciences that is concerned with the design, development and rational use of medications for the treatment and prevention of disease. For example, pharmaceutical sciences seek to provide answers to:

  • What dosage form or drug delivery system should be used?
  • How much of a dose should be administered?
  • How frequently should the dose be administered?
  • How long should the medication be taken?
  • Will the medication interact with other drugs?

In broad terms, pharmaceutical researchers are interested in understanding and improving:

  1. Drug Delivery Systems: These range from traditional systems such as tablets, injections, etc., to modern systems such as liposomes, transdermal patches, and those systems which are targeted to particular organs or tissues.
  2. How Drug Concentrations in the Body Can Be Optimized: By using computer modeling and experimental techniques, knowledge about the absorption, tissue distribution, excretion and elimination of a drug in the body can be obtained.
  3. The Time Course of Drug Action: Through knowledge of drug levels at the pertinent tissue sites, the onset and duration of drug action as well as side effects of particular medications can be determined in individual patients.

While pharmaceutics is a basic and clinical science discipline, it uniquely offers an interdisciplinary field of study which seeks to achieve a better understanding and control of the factors influencing clinical response to drug therapy. Emphasis is given to the application of pharmacokinetics and physical-chemical principles to questions of pharmacological and clinical importance.

Pharmaceutical Care
A principle of practice that concentrates on optimizing the patient’s health-related quality of life, and achieving positive clinical outcomes within economic means. According to the American Pharmaceutical Association (APhA), pharmaceutical care requires:

  1. A professional relationship must be established and maintained.
  2. Patient-specific medical information must be collected, organized, recorded, and maintained.
  3. Patient-specific medical information must be evaluated and a drug therapy plan developed mutually with the patient.
  4. The pharmacist assures that the patient has all supplies, information and knowledge necessary to carry out the drug therapy plan.

The pharmacist reviews, monitors, and modifies the therapeutic plan as necessary and appropriate, in concert with the patient and healthcare team.

Pharmaceutical chemistry
The science dealing with the composition and preparation of chemical compounds used in medication and drug therapies.

Pharmaceutical sciences
Of or relating to medications.

Pharmaceutical technology
All of the technologies involved in the development and use of medications.

Pertaining to pharmacy or pharmacists.

Refers to the scientific discipline that analyzes the cost of a medication and weighs it against the medication’s benefits, the benefits of similar medications and the potential need for the medication.

The use of genetic testing to design new medications and to prescribe more effectively existing medications.

According to the Pharmaceutical Researchers and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), pharmacogenomics is… “The science of understanding the correlation between an individual patient’s genetic make-up (genotype) and their response to drug treatment. Some drugs work well in some patient populations and not as well in others. Studying the genetic basis of patient response to therapeutics allows drug developers to more effectively design therapeutic treatments.”

Pharmacognosy deals with the nature and sources of “natural drugs”-those obtained from plants or animals, either directly or indirectly. For example, with a drug such as quinine, this study involves the source, the commercial production, the marketing, the chief pure chemicals contained in the drug, and the uses made of the drug and its derivatives.

The study of how medications are taken up, biologically transformed, distributed, metabolized, and eliminated from the body.

Pharmacy is a licensed health profession in which pharmacists provide information regarding medication to consumers and health care professionals. Pharmacists are “medication experts,” concerned with disease state management and safe guarding the public’s health in matters relating to medication distribution and use.

While responsibilities vary among the different areas of pharmacy practice, the bottom line is that pharmacists help patients get well. Pharmacist responsibilities include a range of care for patients, from dispensing medications to monitoring patient health and progress to maximize their response to the medication. Pharmacists also educate consumers and patients on the use of prescriptions and over-the-counter medications, and advise physicians, nurses and other health professionals on drug decisions. Pharmacists also provide expertise about the composition of drugs, including their chemical, biological, and physical properties and their manufacture and use. They ensure drug purity and strength and make sure that drugs do not interact in a harmful way. Pharmacists are drug experts ultimately concerned about their patients’ health and wellness.

Professional Commitment: The principal goal of pharmaceutical care is to achieve positive outcomes from the use of medication that improves patients’ quality of life with minimum risk. Pharmacists are professionals, uniquely prepared and available, committed to public service and to the achievement of the followings goals. Pharmacists strive to:

Cure disease;
Eliminate or reduce symptoms;
Arrest or slow a disease process;
Prevent disease;
Diagnose disease; and
Alter physiological processes for desirable result in the patient’s health.

An order, usually from a doctor, for the preparation and administration of a medicine, assistive or corrective device (like a wheel chair or crutches), or other treatment.

Public health
The science and practice of protecting and improving the health of a community with the use of preventive medicine, health education, control of contagious diseases, application of sanitary measures (like anti-bacterial lotion in hospitals), and monitoring of environmental hazards (like the air quality at Ground Zero.)

[ R ]

R&D stands for “research and development.” In the context of pharmacy, it relates to the research and development of new medicines.

Controlled by a rule or law.

[ S ]

Side effects
Problems that occur from taking medication in addition to the desired therapeutic effect (for example, sleepiness).

Specialty Drugs
High-cost injectable (administered with a needle), infused (prepared with water to make a liquid), oral, or inhaled drugs that generally require special storage or handling and close monitoring of the patient’s drug therapy.

[ T ]

Having or exhibiting healing powers.

The study of the nature, effects and detection of poisons as well as the treatment of poisoning.

[ V ]

Any of a group of organic substances essential in small quantities to a person’s normal metabolism, found in minute amounts in natural foodstuffs or sometimes produced synthetically.

Government & Pharmacy Organizations

Here you will find a glossary of government and pharmacy organizations and their associated acronyms.

[ A ]

Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy

American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP)
The national organization of all accredited colleges and schools with pharmacy degree programs. Founded in 1900, the organization’s mission is to lead and partner with members in advancing pharmacy education, research, scholarship, practice and service to improve societal health.

American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists

American College of Apothecaries

American Pharmacists Association (APhA)
Founded in 1852, it is the oldest established professional society of pharmacists in the United States. Today there are over 62,000 pharmacists, pharmaceutical scientists, student pharmacists, and pharmacy technicians who belong to APhA.

American Society of Consultant Pharmacists

American Society of Health-System Pharmacists

[ C ]

Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS)
The U.S. government agency that oversees Medicaid, Medicare and the Children’s Health Insurance Program; also provides information.

[ D ]

Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)
The main agency in the U.S. for protecting the health of all Americans and providing essential human services.

Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)
As part of the U.S. Department of Justice, this government agency combats drug smuggling and misuse within the country.

[ F ]

Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
The government body that approves both prescription and over-the-counter drugs for safety and effectiveness.

[ N ]

National Association of Boards of Pharmacy

National Association of Chain Drug Stores

National Community Pharmacists Association

National Pharmacists Association (NPhA)

[ P ]

Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America


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