Pharmacy Glossary: Key Terms To Know!

Pharmacy is a complex and dynamic field that involves the study of drugs, their development, and their safe and effective use. It is a profession that requires a high level of expertise and knowledge, as pharmacists are responsible for ensuring that patients receive the appropriate medications and treatment regimens.

As such, it is essential for those interested in the field to have a comprehensive understanding of the key terms and concepts related to pharmacy. This article aims to provide a pharmacy glossary that covers a wide range of terms and concepts in the field of pharmacy.

The glossary includes definitions of pharmaceutical concepts, medication types, and pharmacy services, as well as information about professional organizations and government agencies. It also covers important topics such as antibiotic stewardship, biotechnology, and pharmaceutical care.

Whether you are a student, healthcare professional, or simply interested in learning more about pharmacy, this glossary will provide you with the necessary knowledge to navigate the field with confidence.

pharmacy glossary

Important Glossary Terms

A – Antibiotic Stewardship: The effort to improve how antibiotics are prescribed and used by patients to combat antibiotic resistance.
B – Biopharmaceutical industry: The scientific field focused on studying the molecular, cellular, and genetic principles that play a role in drug development.
C – Clinical trials: A multi-phased process to test and monitor the effectiveness and safety of medications or medical devices on large groups of people.
D – Drug discovery: The process by which drugs are discovered and/or designed.
E – Efficacy: The ability of a drug to produce the desired effect.
F – Formulation: A pharmacologic substance prepared according to a formula.
G – Generic nonproprietary: A drug name not protected by a trademark.
H – Hospital pharmacy: A pharmacy within a hospital system including pharmaceutical supply and delivery, financing, hospital administration and direct patient care.
L – Label: An informational tag that specifies ingredients, doses, warnings, and potential drug interactions.
M – Mail order: Services that allow individuals to receive prescriptions conveniently through the mail.
O – Oath of a Pharmacist: A voluntary vow taken by pharmacy students upon graduation dedicating themselves to a lifetime of service to others through the profession of pharmacy.
P – Pharmaceutics: A discipline concerned with the design, development and rational use of medications for the treatment and prevention of disease.
Pharmaceutical Care: A principle of practice that concentrates on optimizing the patient’s health-related quality of life, and achieving positive clinical outcomes within economic means.
Pharmaceutical chemistry: The science dealing with the composition and preparation of chemical compounds used in medication and drug therapies.
Pharmacokinetics: The study of how medications are taken up, biologically transformed, distributed, metabolized, and eliminated from the body.
Pharmacy: A licensed health profession in which pharmacists provide information regarding medication to consumers and healthcare professionals.
Prescription: An order, usually from a doctor, for the preparation and administration of a medicine, assistive or corrective device, or other treatment.
R – R&D: Research and development of new medicines.
S – Side effects: Problems that occur from taking medication in addition to the desired therapeutic effect.
T – Toxicology: The study of the nature, effects and detection of poisons as well as the treatment of poisoning.
V – Vitamins: Organic substances essential in small quantities to a person’s normal metabolism, found in natural foodstuffs or sometimes produced synthetically.
A – Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy: A professional organization focused on managed care pharmacy.
C – Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services: The U.S. government agency that oversees Medicaid, Medicare and the Children’s Health Insurance Program.
D – Drug Enforcement Administration: A government agency that combats drug smuggling and misuse within the country.
F – Food and Drug Administration: The government body that approves both prescription and over-the-counter drugs for safety and effectiveness.
N – National Association of Boards of Pharmacy: A professional organization that represents the 50 state boards of pharmacy in the U.S.
P – Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America: A trade association representing pharmaceutical research and biotechnology companies in the U.S.

Pharmacy Profession

The pharmacy profession is a licensed health profession concerned with disease state management and safeguarding the public’s health in matters relating to medication distribution and use.

Pharmacists are drug experts who provide information and advice to both consumers and healthcare professionals. They help patients get well by dispensing medications, monitoring patient health and progress, educating consumers and patients on medication use, and advising physicians, nurses, and other health professionals on drug decisions.

To become a pharmacist, one must complete an accredited pharmacy degree program, which typically takes four years to complete. After graduation, a pharmacist must pass a licensure exam to practice in their state.

Pharmacists may work in a variety of settings, including community pharmacies, hospitals, managed care organizations, and mail-order services. Career paths in pharmacy may include roles such as clinical pharmacist, research pharmacist, or pharmacy manager.

Pharmaceutical Concepts

Pharmaceutical concepts encompass a wide range of topics related to drug development and discovery techniques. The biopharmaceutical industry focuses on studying molecular, cellular, and genetic principles for drug development, while pharmacological sciences seek to provide answers to drug delivery systems, dosage, administration frequency, medication duration, and interaction with other drugs.

Pharmacology pertains to pharmacy or pharmacists, while pharmacoeconomics analyzes the cost of a medication and weighs it against the medication’s benefits and the potential need for the medication.

Pharmacogenomics uses genetic testing to design new medications and prescribe more effectively existing medications, and toxicology is the study of poisons and their effects.

To truly understand the world of pharmacy, it is important to grasp the complexity of the drug development process. From drug discovery techniques to the study of molecular principles, the pharmaceutical industry is a constantly evolving field.

As pharmacists are responsible for dispensing and monitoring medication use, they must remain up-to-date on the latest developments in drug therapies. By understanding the various pharmaceutical concepts, pharmacists can provide the best possible care to their patients and ensure that they receive the most effective treatments available.


Medications play a vital role in treating diseases and improving patient health outcomes. There are various types of medications that are commonly used to treat different diseases. Understanding medication labels is also crucial in ensuring the proper use and administration of medications.

Common medication types include analgesics for pain relief, anti-inflammatory drugs for reducing inflammation, antihypertensives for managing high blood pressure, antibiotics for fighting bacterial infections, and antipsychotics for treating psychiatric disorders. These medications can be further classified into different categories based on their mode of action, chemical composition, and therapeutic effect. It is important to note that medications can have side effects and potential drug interactions, which should be carefully considered before prescribing or administering them.

Understanding medication labels is essential for safe and effective medication use. Labels typically include information such as the drug name, dosage, route of administration, expiry date, and possible side effects. Patients should follow the instructions on the label and consult their healthcare provider or pharmacist if they have any questions or concerns. It is also important to inform healthcare providers of any other medications, supplements, or medical conditions that may interact with the prescribed medication. By understanding medication types and labels, patients and healthcare providers can work together to ensure the safe and effective use of medications.

Common Medication Types Function
Analgesics Pain relief
Anti-inflammatory drugs Reducing inflammation
Antihypertensives Managing high blood pressure
Antibiotics Fighting bacterial infections
Antipsychotics Treating psychiatric disorders Antidepressants Treating depression and anxiety

Pharmacy Services

Pharmacy services encompass a wide range of healthcare offerings that involve the safe and effective use of medications and innovative technologies. Pharmacists play an important role in providing medication counseling to patients, including information on proper dosage, potential side effects, and drug interactions. They also offer prescription delivery services to ensure patients receive their medications in a timely and convenient manner.

In addition to medication counseling and prescription delivery, pharmacies also provide medication therapy management services. This involves reviewing a patient’s medications to identify and resolve any potential drug-related problems, such as adverse reactions or drug interactions. Pharmacists may also offer immunizations and health screenings, such as blood pressure and cholesterol checks, to help prevent and manage chronic diseases.

By offering a range of services beyond medication dispensing, pharmacies help improve patient outcomes and promote public health.

Professional Organizations

Professional organizations in the field of pharmacy play a crucial role in advancing the profession, promoting best practices, and advocating for policies that benefit pharmacists and their patients. These organizations provide a platform for pharmacists to network, collaborate, and share ideas. They also offer continuing education and professional development opportunities to keep pharmacists up-to-date with the latest developments in the field.

Professional organizations in the pharmacy industry include the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy, the American Pharmacists Association, the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy, the National Community Pharmacists Association, and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.

Pharmacy education is a key focus area for many of these organizations. They work to ensure that pharmacy students receive a high-quality education that prepares them for the demands of the profession. They also advocate for policies that support the ongoing education and professional development of pharmacists.

In addition, these organizations provide resources and support to help pharmacists navigate the changing healthcare landscape and stay current with the latest trends and best practices. Overall, professional organizations in the field of pharmacy are essential for promoting the growth and development of the profession, as well as ensuring that pharmacists are equipped to provide the highest level of care to their patients.

Government Agencies

Government agencies play a crucial role in regulating the pharmaceutical industry and ensuring the safety and efficacy of drugs for the public. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for approving drugs for safety and effectiveness, while the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) combats drug smuggling and misuse within the country. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is the main agency in the U.S. for protecting the health of all Americans, and the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) oversees Medicaid, Medicare, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

Drug regulation is a key responsibility of government agencies to ensure the safety and efficacy of medications. Healthcare policy is also a critical area of focus, as government agencies work to ensure access to affordable and high-quality healthcare for all Americans.

With the support of government agencies and other stakeholders, the pharmaceutical industry can continue to develop innovative treatments and medications, while ensuring patient safety and promoting public health.

Antibiotic Stewardship

Antibiotic stewardship programs are implemented in healthcare facilities to improve the appropriate use of antibiotics and combat the growing issue of antibiotic resistance. These programs aim to optimize antibiotic prescribing by promoting the selection of the most appropriate antibiotic, at the right dose, route, and duration of therapy, while minimizing the risk of adverse effects.

Strategies for antibiotic stewardship include developing guidelines for antibiotic use, using diagnostic tests to confirm the presence of bacterial infections, implementing education and feedback programs for healthcare providers, and monitoring and reporting antibiotic use and resistance patterns.

The impact of antibiotic resistance on healthcare costs is significant, as it leads to longer hospital stays, increased healthcare utilization, and higher mortality rates. In the United States, antibiotic resistance is estimated to cost more than $20 billion annually in direct healthcare costs and lost productivity.

Antibiotic stewardship programs can help reduce the development of antibiotic resistance, which in turn can lead to improved patient outcomes and reduced healthcare costs. By promoting the appropriate use of antibiotics and ensuring that they are used only when necessary, antibiotic stewardship programs can help preserve the effectiveness of antibiotics for future generations.


Biotechnology is a field that involves the modification of living organisms for specific applications, including drug development. This field has produced significant advancements in the biopharmaceutical industry, including the development of biologics, gene therapy, and personalized medicine. However, the application of biotechnology also raises ethical concerns, such as the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and the impact on the environment.

The biopharmaceutical industry is constantly evolving, and biotechnology plays a crucial role in this development. The use of biotechnology has allowed for the development of novel drugs that are more effective and have fewer side effects than traditional small molecule drugs. Additionally, biotechnology has given rise to personalized medicine, where treatments are tailored to an individual’s genetic makeup.

While the advancements in biotechnology have been significant, there are also concerns regarding the ethical implications of these advancements, including issues related to gene editing and the unintended consequences of modifying living organisms. Therefore, it is important to carefully consider the advancements in biotechnology and their potential impacts on society.

Pharmaceutical Care

Pharmaceutical care is a patient-centered approach to optimizing medication therapy and improving health outcomes. It involves a collaborative effort between pharmacists and other healthcare providers to ensure that patients receive the most appropriate and effective medication therapy. This approach focuses on the individual patient’s needs, taking into account their medical history, lifestyle, and other factors that may impact their medication use.

Importance of patient education is a crucial aspect of pharmaceutical care. Pharmacists play a vital role in educating patients about their medications, including how to take them, potential side effects, and drug interactions.

Integrating pharmaceutical care into healthcare systems can lead to improved patient outcomes, reduced healthcare costs, and increased patient satisfaction. By providing patients with personalized care and education, pharmacists can help improve medication adherence, reduce the risk of adverse events, and ultimately improve the patient’s overall health and well-being.

Other Concepts

Public health is a multidisciplinary field that aims to protect and improve the health of individuals and communities through various initiatives such as health promotion, disease prevention, and environmental health. It involves the efforts of public health professionals, healthcare providers, policymakers, and the general public to address health concerns and promote healthy lifestyles. Public health initiatives can range from vaccination campaigns and disease surveillance to water and air quality monitoring and emergency preparedness.

One important aspect of public health is research and development (RD) advancements in medicine and healthcare. RD plays a crucial role in the discovery and development of new drugs, vaccines, and medical technologies that can improve health outcomes and save lives. It involves a complex process of testing and evaluating the safety and efficacy of new interventions before they can be approved for use. Public health professionals and policymakers rely on RD advancements to inform their decisions and policies, and to ensure that the best possible treatments and interventions are available to the public.


The Pharmacy Glossary provides a comprehensive list of terms related to pharmacy and medication. The glossary covers a wide range of topics, including patient care, drug discovery, prescription, dosage, and drug interactions. The glossary also includes organizations such as APhA, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and National Pharmacists Association. The entries are written clearly and concisely, making it an excellent reference for pharmacy students, pharmacists, and anyone interested in the field of pharmacy. Overall, the Pharmacy Glossary is a helpful resource for understanding pharmacy-related terminology and concepts.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the educational requirements to become a licensed pharmacist?

To become a licensed pharmacist, individuals must complete educational prerequisites, including a Doctor of Pharmacy degree from an accredited institution, and pass the licensing process, which includes passing the North American Pharmacist Licensure Examination (NAPLEX) and other state-specific exams.

How are brand name medications different from generic medications?

Brand name medications are developed and patented by the manufacturer, while generic medications are copies of the original drug after its patent has expired. Generic drugs are typically less expensive than brand name drugs, but both must meet the same FDA standards for quality and safety. Cost comparison is a consideration for patients and insurance companies when selecting a medication.

What is the role of a hospital pharmacist in patient care?

Hospital pharmacists play a crucial role in patient care by ensuring the safe and effective use of medications, providing drug information to healthcare professionals, and collaborating with healthcare teams to optimize patient outcomes.

How do managed care pharmacies manage costs for insurance plan members?

Managed care pharmacies employ cost containment strategies such as formulary management, which involves selecting medications based on their safety, efficacy, and affordability. This helps to control drug costs for insurance plan members while still providing effective treatment options.

What is the purpose of the Oath of a Pharmacist taken by pharmacy students?

The oath of a pharmacist taken by pharmacy students is of utmost importance as it signifies their dedication to serving others through the profession of pharmacy. It also highlights ethical considerations in providing optimal patient care.

Danielle Winner

Hello my name is Danielle Winner. Welcome to my site on Pharmacy School and tips and tricks to hopefully help you get in. It's not easy but hopefully you can learn to not make mistakes that students (myself included) make. Good luck on your journey. I graduated from Albany School of Pharmacy in May 2010 and have had a few different jobs across the east coast of the U.S.

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