Know Your Medicines

Part 1 -Basics about drugs
What is a drug?

A drug is a chemical substance which is used to prevent, control or treat diseases.
What are Over the Counter (OTC) and Prescription drugs?
OTC drugs are medicines that may be sold directly to a consumer without a prescription from a healthcare professional as compared to prescription drugs, which may be sold only to consumers possessing a valid prescription (Wikipedia).

What are Brand name and Generic drugs?
A brand name drug is a medicine that is developed and marketed by a pharmaceutical company and is protected by a patent (can be produced and sold only by the company holding the patent). This is to protect against other companies making copies and selling the drug.
Generic drugs are copies of brand-name drugs. They come in the market when the patent protection for a brand-name drug expires. Generic drugs have the same active ingredients as brand name drugs with exactly the same dosage, indications, side effects, route of administration, safety and strength as the original drug.

Drug's life in the body
There are four basic stages of a medicine in the body: absorption, distribution, metabolism, and elimination. This called pharmacokinetics of the drug.

  • The first stage is absorption. Medicines are absorbed when they travel from the site of administration of the drug into the body's circulation. The drug can be administered in the body by various routes.
    A few of the most common ways to administer drugs are oral (swallowing), intramuscular or IM (shot in the muscle), subcutaneous (injected just under the skin) or intravenous or IV (injected in the vein).

  • Second stage is distribution when the bloodstream carries the drug throughout the body.

  • Next stage is drug metabolism which is the conversion of a drug into another substance or breaking down of the drug. The process takes place primarily in the liver,
    Drugs taken orally move to the liver first. It gets broken down in the liver and then enters the blood circulation. When drugs are administered by the IV route, the entire drug dose enters the blood circulation directly. This is the reason the drugs administered by the IV route works faster than the oral route.

  • Elimination is the process by which a drug is removed from the body. Drugs are most commonly eliminated through urine, expired air, breast milk, sweat and saliva.

Some basic properties of a drug:
  • Solubility: Dissolution of the drug in order to be passed into the blood circulation to have an effect. It will affect drug absorption.

  • Bioavailability: A measure of the amount of drug that is actually absorbed from a given dose and is available for its action.

  • Half life: The duration of action of a drug is known as its half life. It depends on how quickly the drug is eliminated from the blood.

  • Efficacy: It is the desired beneficial response achieved by a drug.

  • Adverse effect: It is a harmful and undesired effect resulting from a medication.

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