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Medical Terms and
Definitions used in Pharmacy

Pharmacy technicians and other healthcare workers communicate with lots of medical terminology.  So, part of your training should include learning the basics of medical terms and their definitions. Better yet, knowing pharmacy's most common terms and their definitions will supply an advantage when taking the pharmacy tech exam, during an interview or even an employer qualification test. During your preparation to get nationally certified, if you see a word you don't know, look for it here.

A  -  C  |  D  -  I  |  J  -  P  |  Q  -  Z


Deductible - A set amount a patient must pay before an insurance provider will begin paying claims.

Dehydration - When the body loses water and electrolytes essential for bodily function.

Denominator - Number below the line in a fraction that indicates the number which one whole is divided.

Diluent - A liquid that decreases the concentration of a solution by diluting it, or turns powder into a liquid.

Diuretic - Drugs that increase the body's urine discharge flow, thereby decreasing overall fluid accumulation.

Displacement - When fluid volume appears greater because a non-fluid substance is placed into it.

Dopamine - A neurotransmitter essential to the normal functioning of the central nervous system

Dram (Fluid) - is equal to 1/8 of an oz. So, 8 Drams = 1oz.  And, 1 Fluid Dram is roughly equal to 3.7mL.

Drop Factor - In IV administration, Drop factor usually refers to how many drops make up 1 mL. (gtts/mL)


Effervescent Tablet - These emit bubbles when put into water, and rapidly dissolve usually leaving a froth

Electrolytes - Are fluids containing sodium and potassium salts designed to maintain or replenish proper balance of a patient's electrolyte levels. They are commonly used after dehydration of along with diuretics.

Elimination - Another word for Excretion, which is when the body removes non-usable waste. In pharmacokinetics, this is the last step.

Elixir - A sweetened, hydro-alcoholic solution that is taken orally and contains one or more active drugs.

Emulsion -A mixture of two or more liquids that are normally immiscible with each other.

Enema - As a dosage form: An injection of fluid into the rectum containing suspended drug particles.

Enteric Coated - An additional coating on a tablet to control where in the digestive system a drug will dissolve and be absorbed.

Expectorant - Drugs that work in the respiratory system to clear out mucus and phlegm.

Extemporaneous Compounding - Following a set / written recipe to compound prescription drugs.


Fahrenheit - Standard temperature measurement scale in the U.S. - Water freezes at 32 and boils at 220.

Flow Rate - In IV math, it's the amount of drops that are needed per minute. (gtt/min)

Formulary - A predetermined list of drugs that are considered preferred and acceptable by a therapeutic committee for managed care systems. A formulary is carefully chosen in order to offer a wide enough range to accommodate medical therapies, but not wasteful.


Gastrointestinal -  Anything relating to the stomach and large intestines.

Generic Drug - A medication not protected by patent, distributed and marketed under it's pharmaceutical / chemical name, usually by multiple manufacturers at a lower end-user cost.

Grain - Unit of dry measure. There are 437.5 Grains / Ounce and 15.43 grains per gram.

Gram - Unit of dry measure. 15.43 grains make up 1 gram. A gram is also 1/1000 of a Kg.


Half-Life - The amount of time it takes for half of the drug to be eliminated from the body.

Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) - A health insurance plan where patients are assigned a primary care physician, who must be initially consulted for everything and then personally refer them to specialists within the organization's network.

HEPA - Acronym for: High Efficiency Particulate Air. It is a type of highly effective air filter.

Hypnotic Drug - These slow the central nervous system to reduce anxiety and induce sleep


Inert ingredients - Filler / non-drug  ingredients in medication which are inactive.

Infusion rate - Fluid volume of an IV necessary to deliver enough drug within the time-frame the prescriber sets.

Intracardiac -Refers to an injection administered directly into the patients heart.

Intradermal -An injection into the top layer of skin, done at an angle.

Inventory - A comprehensive list of the assets / items currently and physically in stock.

Isotonic - Refers to a solution with the same tonicity (Saline) as human blood.

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