Overview of Drugs

A drug is a substance or medicine used to treat, cure, and prevent any illness. A common misuse of the word drug is related to the substances known as mind-altering or recreational substances

By law, drugs are classified into two categories, prescription drugs, and nonprescription drugs also known as OTC (over the counter) drugs.

Prescription Drugs

Drugs considered safe for use only under the supervision of a medical expert such as a doctor or dentist. 

Nonprescription drugs

Drugs that are known to be safe for use without the supervision of an expert are nonprescription drugs. They are sold over the counter and can be obtained/bought without the production of a prescription.

Drug Names

A drug has at least three names. A chemical name, generic name, and a brand name.

A chemical name is usually derived from the atomic structure of the drug. A generic name is given by an official body to the drug in order to avoid the chemical name since it’s not very easy to pronounce. And the brand name is given by the manufacturer of the drug.

People, who are involved in the research and development of a drug, refer to it by the generic name since it directs to the formula itself. Using a brand name may show leniency or favoritism.

Drug groups

Drugs are classified into therapeutic groups. Which means that drugs for the same disease or disorder are placed in the same group? There may be different drugs in the same therapeutic group, which are caked different classes, that may treat the same illness but with different approaches. For example, antihypertensive are drugs used to treat high blood pressure. The classes in antihypertensive are diuretics, calcium channel blockers, and a beta blocker, just to name a few.

Dietary Supplements

These are what are more commonly known as multivitamins or supplements. They are not intended to cure a disease or illness and hence they are not classified as drugs.  They do not have to go through intense scrutiny and procedures to get clearance from the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) either. Their aim is to supplement the diet in a healthy way. However, even though they are not what we call drugs, they may have adverse effects if taken irresponsibly, or in excess without extra precaution being taken into consideration.

The drugs are developed and bought into the market by the pharmaceutical companies. The biggest pharmaceutical company in the world is Pfizer. It generated some $52 billion in sales in 2017. Novartis, GSK and Sanofi are some of the big pharma companies from Europe. If we talk about the highest selling therapeutic class in drugs, it has to be cancer. $81 billion was made from cancer drugs sold in the US in 2017 alone. Antidiabetics and pain killers fall behind.

Right now, over 7000 drugs are in development stages globally.  Out of these 7000+, 1813 are cancer drugs. This huge number takes us to another huge number that is $1.5 trillion. That is the total revenue of the global pharmaceutical market in the year 2018.