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Medical Terms
Definitions used in Pharmacy

Pharmacy techs are healthcare workers and need to know medical terms definitions. When you work in a pharmacy, you'll be working around the terminology and it will eventually become second nature. Until then, some of it will sound like foreign language. However, knowing some pharmacy terms and definitions will give you an edge when taking the ExCPT or PTCB exam. While preparing for the big test, look up any words you don't understand and get familiar with the definition.

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Kilo - In the metric system it means *1000. Most often used as slang to mean Kilogram (1000 Grams)


Laxative - A Substance that promotes bowel movement, normally prescribed for mild constipation.

Legend Drug - Means the same as prescription drug; Must have a valid prescription to be dispensed.

Liter - Fluid measurement in the metric system. 1 Liter = 1000 mL - and - 1 Liter = 33.81 Ounces

Lozenge - Known better as a cough drop; picked up the name Lozenge because of its (sometimes) diamond shape. It's designed to dissolve in the mouth to sooth and lubricate the throat.


Markup Percentage - Usually refers to the price a retailer charges above their wholesale cost as a profit.

Meniscus - The curved surface on the top of fluid in a glass container.

Micro - In the metric system it means 1/million. (ex.: Microgram = 1/1,000,000 of a Gram)

Milli - In the metric system it means 1/1000. (ex.: Milliliter = 1/1000 of a Liter)

Misbranded - When a product is labeled or marketed falsely or in a misleading manner.

MOA - (Mechanism of Action) The method in which a drug produces an effect on the condition it's intended to treat.


Narcotics - Drugs that induce various stages of narcosis to dull the senses, typically used to treat pain.

Net Profit - A measure of profitability after all business related expenses have been accounted for.

NS - (normal Saline) Isotonic solution of 0.9% concentration of sodium chloride in sterile water.

Numerator - The top number in a math fraction, which will be divided by the denominator (bottom number).


Ointment - A preparation of medication disbursed in a thick fluid, typically used to treat skin disorders.

Opthalmic -Refers to the eye. For treatment of, around or in the patient's eye.

Opiate - Drugs that are derived from opium, typically used for pain management.

Opioid - Synthetic drugs that have the narcotic effects of opium, typically used for pain management.

Orange Book - Published by the FDA, the "Approved Drug Products With Therapeutic Equivalence Evaluations" is available as a resource to help healthcare professionals in choosing drugs for generic substitution.

OTC Drugs - Medications sold "Over The Counter", which can be obtained without prescription.

Otic - Refers to the ear. For treatment of, around or in the patient's ear.


Parenteral -Refers to drug administration that is delivered directly, and not through the intestinal tract. Mainly used to classify injection routes of administration.

Pharmacokinetics - What the body does with a drug from when it's administered to the time it's eliminated.

Pharmacology - A vague term which refers to the science and study of drugs, including the chemistry and biological effects.

pH Level - A measure of the alkalinity or acidity of a solution. The pH scale ranges from 0-14 and 7 is neutral.

Pint - Fluid measurement  1 Pint = 16 Ounces

Placebo - Commonly referred to as a 'sugar pill'. A placebo contains no medicine. However, the patient supposes it does, and results may occur because of this belief. Placebos are mostly used in clinical trials to experiment with groups of people in double-blind studies.

Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) - A health insurance plan that allows members to seek care directly from network providers without a referral.

Psychotropic - Refers to drugs that have a psychological effect and result in altering a patient's mind, mood or behavior.

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