The Categories of Medicine

Over time, medicine has increased people’s lifespans, eradicated infectious diseases and made different conditions easier to handle. In some cases, medicine has also decreased the need for costly and risky procedures and helped preserve hospital space for critical patients.

With all that medications have already accomplished throughout human history, advanced technology and research will likely lead to new milestones. Entrepreneurs such as Ralph Thurman, chairman at Outlook Therapeutics Inc, have revolutionized the pharmaceutical industry. An increased understanding of herbal medications in the west has also led to new health discoveries. To better understand the benefits of medicine, it helps to look at the four main categories.


When a medication’s packaging is tagged with a “P”, the medication can be identified as a pharmaceutical. The only way to purchase these medications is at an authorized pharmacy behind the counter. A pharmacist can use his or her expertise to determine if the medication is the right option for the customer, and if it isn’t, the pharmacist doesn’t have to make the sale. Strong antihistamines, sleeping tablets and PDE inhibitors are a few examples of pharmacy medicines.


When a drug’s usage and side effects are critical, it is often controlled by the government. Many drugs can easily be misused by patients and the ramifications can be severe. The Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 was put in place to mitigate drug-related risk. “CD” and “POM” tags on the packaging identify medications as controlled. Not only do controlled drugs require approval from authorized medical professionals, but administration, storage and distribution are regulated. Controlled drugs are classed in different categories depending on how serious the government deems them.

Prescription Only

Some medications’ effects are not considered serious enough for the government to control them, but the risk is high enough that extra caution should be used. Before these medications can be dispensed to a patient, a specialist has to prescribe them. “POM” is tagged on the packaging to identify these medications as prescription only. Strong sleeping medications, anti-depressants and insulin are examples of these drugs.

General Sales List 

Some medicines are generally considered to be safe enough that they don’t require heavy regulation. Examples of General Sales List medicines include many flu and cold medicines, vitamin supplements and paracetamol. These medicines are widely available at health stores, pharmacy stores and grocery stores. It’s important for people to take precautions before buying General Sales List medications even if they are mostly regarded as being “not dangerous” since everyone reacts to medicines differently. Even if approval isn’t needed, a patient should still talk to his or her doctor before administering anything.

Medicines come in all different forms, treat different things and have different effects. Distinguishing the general categories can help an individual prioritize solutions and figure out what’s best for him or her. People in the industry work hard to manufacture the safest, most effective remedies possible, but a patient should still use due diligence. A patient should research, read labels and ask questions to get the best out of medicine.

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