Drug Information

In the United States, the standard for drug information is the United States Pharmacopeia (USP). This reference is published by a national committee of pharmacologists and other scientists. It contains formulas for drugs sold in the United States and standards for testing the strength, quality, and purity of drugs and standards for the preparation and dispensing of drugs. There is also the Hospital Formulary, published by the American Society of Health System Pharmacists, and the Physicians' Desk Reference, published yearly by Medical Economics Books, with information supplied by the manufacturers. Another excellent source of up-to-date information on drugs is a community or hospital pharmacist.

Box 8-1 Where Do They Get Those Names?

Drug names are derived in a variety of ways. Some are named for their origin. Adrenaline, for example, is named for its source, the adrenal gland. Even its generic name, epinephrine, informs us that it comes from the gland that is above the kidney. Pitocin, a drug used to induce labor, is named for its source, the pituitary gland, combined with the chemical name of the hormone, oxytocin. Botox, currently injected into the skin for cosmetic removal of wrinkles, is the toxin from the organism that causes botulism, a type of food poisoning. Aspirin (an anti-inflammatory agent), Taxol (an antitumor agent), digitalis (used to treat heart failure), and atropine (a smooth muscle relaxant) are all named for the plants they come from. For example, aspirin is named for the blossoms of Spiraea, from which it comes. Taxol is named for the genus Taxus, of the yew from which it comes. Digitalis comes from purple foxglove, genus Digitalis. Atropine comes from the plant Atropa belladonna.

Some names tell about the drug or its actions. The name for Humulin, which is a form of insulin made by genetic engineering, points up the fact that this is human insulin and not a hormone from animal sources. Lomotil reduces intestinal motility and is used to treat diarrhea. The name belladonna is from Italian and means "fair lady," because this drug dilates the pupils of the eyes, making women appear more beautiful.

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