Medicines: types and dosage forms

The doctor prescribes them, the pharmacist sells them: medicines. Medicines are medicines intended to cure a disease and to prevent or diagnose a disease. Drugs have long been made from plants, plant parts, animal and chemical compounds. Meanwhile, the focus of pharmacologists is increasingly on genetic and synthetic manufacturing processes. All medicines sold in pharmacies in the Federal Republic of Germany must first be approved by the Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices (BfArM). The following regulations apply to more than 70, 000 drugs sold:

Categories of medicines

  • over-the-counter medicines may also be sold outside pharmacies,
  • pharmacy-only drugs may only be dispensed in pharmacies,
  • Prescription drugs are only available in pharmacies upon presentation of a prescription,
  • Narcotics on the other hand are only available in pharmacies on presentation of a special narcotic formula.
  • Cosmetics and dietary supplements are not medications.

Active ingredients and auxiliaries

A drug consists of chemical agents and non-active adjuvants that help provide the drug in the drug. The basic mass for suppositories, for example, hard fat, which is the vehicle for the active ingredient as an aid. Tablets may contain lactose as an adjuvant. A drug may contain one or more active substances. Such mono- and combined preparations are known above all as medicaments for alleviating pain or influenza-type infections.

With products that contain only one active ingredient, an individual therapy in the correct dosage may possibly be more successful because the individual course of the disease can be better taken into account.


Combination drugs, on the other hand, contain active ingredients against several symptoms. Taking all the active ingredients at the same time saves time, among other things, and does not risk forgetting an active substance. Another advantage z. As with analgesics is the fact that the individual active ingredients complement each other in their action and thus less of the individual active ingredient is needed. If several active ingredients are taken simultaneously, but also increases the risk of interactions. Especially chronically ill patients should therefore seek advice in the pharmacy about which drug combinations are unproblematic for them.

Dosage forms of medicines

Modern drugs are offered in various forms - also called "dosage forms". Then one differentiates the "administration form":

  • via the mouth (orally): tablets, dragees, capsules, drops, juices etc.
  • under the tongue (sublingual): bite capsules, lozenges
  • through the rectum (rectal): suppositories, clysters
  • under the skin (subcutaneously (sc)): crystal suspension
  • into the vein (intravenous (iv)): infusion
  • into the artery (intra-arterially (ia)): injections
  • into the muscle tissue (intramuscular (im)): spraying
  • on the skin (cutaneous): creams, ointments, gels, pastes
  • through the skin (percutaneously): depot patches, patches
  • via the vagina (vaginal): vaginal suppository
  • via the conjunctiva (conjunctival): eye drops
  • through the nose (nasal): nasal spray, nose drops

Risks and side effects

In addition to the desired effect may also adverse effects after taking or giving a drug occur. Possible side effects must be listed in the instruction leaflet. Lawmakers require comprehensive patient education here, so leaflets will list all potential side effects, regardless of how often they occur and how severe they are.

Also, interactions, ie the mutual influence of drugs with simultaneous administration, are mentioned in the leaflet. The pharmacist is the competent contact person for the patient in these questions and can quickly clarify questions about possible interactions. The electronic health card is intended to further reduce the risk of drug intolerance and adverse interactions.

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