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Medical Terms and
Definitions used in Pharmacy

As a pharmacy technician, you'll be working in a healthcare field setting. So, knowing medical terms and definitions (AKA: the 'Lingo') will make life much easier at work. More importantly, knowing pharmaceutical terms and their explanations will give you an advantage while taking the ExCPT or PTCB exam, and even during an interview or employer qualifications testing. While you're using the site or taking free practice exams, if you see a word you don't know, look it up here.

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


Absorption Rate - The amount of time it takes after a drug is administered for it to enter the bloodstream.

Acute - Usually refers to a condition that has a fast onset time, severe effect, and short course of duration.

Admixture - Two or more drugs blended or mixed together to create a desired substance or solution.

Adverse Reaction - When the body has an undesired or negative response to a medication or drug-drug interaction.

Agonist - A drug that triggers a receptor to produce a physiologic response. An easy way to remember the difference is: Agonists try to make things happen, Antagonists try to stop things from happening.

Allegation - An unofficial Math maneuver that can be used to determine ratios for compounding.

Allergic Reaction - A response from the immune system to a substance which a patient has an allergy to.

Allergy - When the body is highly sensitive to (an otherwise harmless) substance.

Amphetamine - Central nervous system stimulant prescribed for the treatment of : ADHD, Narcolepsy, Obesity and other conditions. Also known as "Speed", Amphetamines are highly addictive and DEA controlled.

Ampule - A (small) sealed glass vial that is to be 'broken' open and normally contains injection solution.

Analgesic - Often referred to as "pain relievers", Analgesics are drug used to reduce or suppress pain. (ex. Aspirin, Ibuprofen, Oxycodone, etc.)

Anaphylactic Shock - The body's reaction to Anaphylaxis caused by your immune system.

Anaphylaxis - An extreme reaction to something you're severely allergic to, such as a peanuts, shell-fish or a bee sting which requires emergency medical attention and may be life threatening.

Anestetic - Drugs that create an insensitivity to pain by blocking nerve transmission to the brain.

Antagonist - Drugs designed to block a receptor-mediated effect created by neurotransmitters. An easy way to remember the difference is: Agonists try to make things happen, Antagonists try to stop things from happening.

Anticoagulant - A drug that is used to decrease or prevent the formation of blood clots

Anticonvulsant - These are drugs used to help prevent seizures or to lessen the severity of a seizure.

Antiemetic - Drugs used to prevent, alleviate or suppress nausea and vomiting.

Antihistamine -Drugs used to counteract the immune systems histamine reaction to allergy or respiratory illness.

Antineoplastic - Drugs prescribed to slow the growth of malignant tumors.

Antipyretic - Drugs used to prevent or reduce fever (abnormally high body temperature).

Antispasmotic - Drugs used to relieve or prevent muscle spasms.

Antitussive - Drugs used to suppress or relieve coughing.

Apothecary - Another word for pharmacist. However, it also refers to a system of weights and measures.

Aqueous -Refers to when something is, or to be water based.

Aseptic Technique- A sanitation practice performed with a goal of minimizing contamination by pathogens.

Auxiliary Label - Additional labels placed on prescription packaging that provide supplementary information, various warnings, routes of administrations, etc.

AWP (Average Wholesale Price) - Found in the Redbook, the AWP of a drug is the average price at which drugs are purchased at the wholesale level. It is mainly used to determine third-party reimbursement.


Bactericidal - Drugs that destroy / kill bacteria.

Bacteriostatic - Drugs that slow down or inhibit the duplication (growth) of bacteria.

Bio-Availability - The rate which a drug is made available to the target site of physiological activity

Bio-Equivalence - When a drug has the same biological effect / efficacy / bioavailability as a a similar drug with a different formulation.

Bronchodilator - A drug that widens passages in the lungs to ease breathing.

Buccal - Tablet held between the cheek and gum which dissolves, thereby permitting quicker absorption


CC - Abbreviation for cubic centimeter = Same as 1 mL (Milliliter)

Celsius - It's basically the same as Centigrade. (see next term below)

Centigrade - Standard measure of temperature in Science / Metric system. Water freezes at 0 and boils at 100.

Closed Formulary - A program where drugs not listed in the Formulary require prior authorization or may not be covered whatsoever by the insurer.

Coinsurance - A cost-sharing method where a patient pays only a percentage for medication after their deductible is met, and their insurer pays the rest.

Chronic -Refers to an illness that persists for a long period of time or frequent re-occurence.

Communicable -Refers to illness / disease that is contagious or transmittable to others.

Compound - A final substance (or solution) made from two or more substances.

Compounding - The creation of a particular drug mixture to fit the unique need of a patient.

Controlled Release (CR) -Refers to drugs formulations designed to release gradually over a specific time.

Controlled Substance - In the U.S., it refers to drugs that are regulated by the Drug Enforcement Agency.

Co-Pay - A set dollar amount a patient must pay for a prescription out-of-pocket when it's dispensed.

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