Introduction Whenever we get some drugs from the hospital or market we find new names and are unable to make out what it is. While trying to read the contents of that drug on the drug wrapper or cover, we find still more complex chemical names against which their content value (like weight in the milligram) along with unknown abbreviations is mentioned. It becomes difficult to understand all the information which is given there on the drug cover or the wrapper.
Let us go through the basic concepts and information in this regard.
Name and contents of the drug The name of the drug is a unique name given by the company to that drug. This name can resemble or appear phonetically to an ailment or the contents comprising that drug but that is not mandatory and most of the times it is only a conveniently selected name. The companies have to give a unique name for their product and it should not be same as the name of any drug by any other company.
This makes it necessary to take full care in giving a name to a new drug as existing names in the industry should not be duplicated. This given name is called the brand name of the drug. Some examples of brand names are Crocin, Pentocid, Aspro, Pregaba, Combiflam etc. Every drug has one or more chemical contents. These contents are known by their chemical names. These chemical names are the generic names of the drug. For example, Crocin contains 'paracetamol' so paracetamol is the generic name for this drug.
There may be many drugs on the market which may contain paracetamol but they will have different brand names. There could be a number of chemicals present in a drug. For example, a multivitamin-multimineral tablet can have 15 to 20 constituents in it. Out of which there could be 8-10 vitamins, 4-5 mineral and 3-4 trace elements. The quantity of each of these constituents will be written against their names. In general, the quantity of each constituent comprising in one tablet of a particular drug will be mentioned in mg (milligram) on the cover or wrapper of the drug.
For example, in drug Combiflam, one tablet contains - Ibuprofen 400 mg and Paracetamol 325 mg. Though most of the contents are expressed in mg there are some constituents which are expressed in the international unit (I.U.) which is an internationally agreed measurement of the potency of a particular biologic material like the vitamin. We will often see something like say 1000 I.U. written against some vitamin constituent in a drug. It means that the effectiveness of that vitamin is corresponding to 1000 I.U. This is to be understood in I.U. term only as there is no general conversion from I.U. to the milligram. It varies from vitamin to vitamin.
When prescribing medicines to a patient the doctor writes the brand name of medicines as per his choice. He has many options as there are many brand names available in the market for the same type of formulation. This is the reason why there is a lot of advertisement and marketing for these drugs and medical representatives will approach each and every doctor in their area to ensure that the doctors are well aware with the new brand names so that they can write those new names also in their prescriptions where ever applicable.
Type of drugs As per the provision of 'The Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940' the drugs are classified mainly in three categories from their administration point of view which means in what manner they will be prescribed and consumed by the patients. These categories are -
Abbreviations and Warnings on Drug cover Generally, we find some abbreviations like IP, USP or BP etc written just after the name of the contents on the drug cover or wrapper. These are actually indicating the standards under which a particular drug is manufactured or prepared in a country. These standards are known as pharmacopoeia. IP stands for Indian pharmacopoeia, USP stands for US pharmacopoeia and BP stands for British Pharmacopoeia. Certain directions are mentioned on the drug cover or wrapper. Each of them has a specific meaning.
Conclusion The information provided on drug covers or wrappers is very specific and is mentioned to avoid any accidental use of the drug by people. The brand name is only to distinguish it from other drugs and should not be confused with the contents of the drug. Drugs should not be self-medicated by the people. A drug should only be taken after consulting a doctor.