Medicines: types and dosage forms

Medicines  are medicines intended to cure a disease, as well as to prevent or diagnose a disease. Medicines have long been made from plants, plant parts, animal and chemical compounds. In the meantime, the focus of pharmacology is increasingly on genetic engineering and synthetic manufacturing processes. All medicines that are sold in pharmacies in Germany must first be approved by the Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices (BfArM). There are different types of drugs that differ in how they are administered or how they are accessed.

categories of drugs

According to accessibility, the following types of drugs are distinguished.

  • over -the-counter  medicines may also be sold outside of pharmacies
  •  Pharmacy-only medicines may only be dispensed in pharmacies
  • Prescription  drugs are only available in pharmacies on presentation of a doctor’s prescription
  • Narcotics , on the  other hand, are only available in pharmacies on presentation of a special  narcotics  prescription
  • Cosmetics and  dietary supplements  are  not  medicines.

active ingredients and excipients

A drug consists of chemical active ingredients and non-active auxiliary substances that support the provision of the active ingredient in the drug. The base mass for suppositories, for example, is hard fat, which as an aid is the carrier substance for the  active ingredient  . Tablets may contain lactose as an excipient.

A drug can contain one or more active ingredients. Such mono- and combination preparations are known above all as medicines to relieve pain or influenza infections.


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

combination medicines

Combination medicines, on the other hand, contain active substances that treat several symptoms. If all active ingredients are taken at the same time, you save time when taking them and there is no risk of forgetting an active ingredient. Another advantage e.g. B. with painkillers is the fact that the individual active ingredients complement each other in their effect and therefore less of the individual active ingredient is required.

However, if several active ingredients are taken at the same time, the risk of interactions also increases. Chronically ill patients in particular should therefore seek advice from the pharmacy about which drug combinations are unproblematic for them.

dosage forms of medicines

Modern medicines are offered in different forms – also called “dosage forms”. A distinction is then made between the following “forms of administration”:

  • oral  (by mouth): tablets,  dragees , capsules, drops,  juices  , etc.
  • sublingual  (under the  tongue ): bite capsules, lozenges
  • rectally  (through the anus): suppositories, enemas
  • subcutaneous  (sc) (under the skin): crystal suspension
  • intravenous  (iv) (into the vein): infusion
  • intraarterial  (ia) (into the artery): syringes
  • intramuscular  (im) (into the muscle tissue): injection
  • cutaneous  (on the skin): creams, ointments, gels, pastes
  • percutaneous  (through the skin): depot plasters, patches
  • vaginal  (via the vagina): vaginal suppositories
  • conjunctival  (via the conjunctiva): eye drops
  • nasal  (through the nose): nasal spray, nasal drops

risks and side effects

In addition to the desired effect, undesirable  side effects can also  occur after taking or administering a drug. Possible side effects must be listed in the package leaflet. At this point, the legislator requires comprehensive information for the patient, which is why all potential side effects are listed in full in the package leaflet – regardless of how often they occur and how severe they are.

Interactions , i.e. the mutual influence of drugs when administered at the same time, are also mentioned in the package leaflet The pharmacist is the patient’s competent contact person for 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 undesirable interactions.

storage of medicines

Medicines should be stored in a cool, dark and dry place, preferably in a cupboard. Shoe boxes, tin cans with and without lids or just any drawer are unsuitable. The best place for a  medicine cabinet  is the bedroom or an unheated adjoining room. Bathrooms and kitchens are usually too humid and too warm – this can damage the medication.

The medicine cabinet should be lockable. This is especially true when there are children living in the household. The childproof storage of medicines is also easily neglected when a child is ill and the medicines are used regularly. Medicines should therefore be put back in the medicine cabinet after each dose.

If medication is given at home during the course of an illness, the time of day and dose should be noted on a piece of paper. The body temperature can also be entered there after the  fever measurement  . The course of the disease can thus be better documented and the dosing intervals better observed.

use up medication?

Most medications must be taken at full strength. This is especially true for  antibiotics . Discontinuing antibiotics on your own means that not all bacteria are killed and the rest become resistant to the active substance. If medicines are not used up completely, they should be thrown away. Other medications such as B.  Painkillers  can continue to be used until the expiry date.

Medicines should always be kept in the packaging together with the instructions for use. You should also note on the packaging who and what purpose the remedy was intended for and when it was opened. However, this does not mean that you can take the drug again independently if you become ill later on without consulting a doctor.

shelf life of medicines

Drugs have a limited shelf life. After the use by date printed on the package, the drug may lose its effectiveness. Some indications of possibly tainted medicines are easy to spot with the naked eye:

  • Tablets have dark spots.
  • Dragees are discolored or cracked.
  • Ointments or creams  smell  rancid, have dried up or have liquefied.
  • In a liquid that is actually clear, there is sediment and floating flakes.
  • Cones glitter and show crystals on the surface.

So that ointments and creams, which are manufactured in the pharmacy according to a precise recipe, are not contaminated, the contents should always be removed with a clean spatula. Wooden spatulas, which are thrown away after a single use, are good for this. Eye drops usually only keep for a few weeks after opening – the exact information is included in the leaflet.


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