What Is A Medicine?

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What Is A Medicine?
What Is A Medicine?

Video: What Is A Medicine?

Video: What Is A Medicine?
Video: What is Medicine? 2023, March

What is a medicine?

Many substances trigger an effect in the organism. It can either be beneficial or harmful to health. Medicinal substances are active substances that have a proven benefit. They are used specifically to treat illnesses and ailments. Medicines are carefully tested before use on humans. Treatment with medication requires special care, as minor changes in application - e.g. in dosage - can cause undesirable effects. Generics are drugs with the same active ingredient as drugs that were originally patented.


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  • ">When are drugs used?


  • Care and safety come first
  • What are drugs?
  • Targeted effect: what matters
  • Generic: what is it?
  • Treatment with generic drugs


The organism can heal many injuries, complaints or temporary illnesses on its own and without treatment. In these cases, medicines can help to relieve pain or speed up healing, for example. In the case of serious illnesses, self-healing powers may fail or not be sufficient. If the disease is not treated, there is a risk that organs or body functions will be permanently impaired.

When are drugs used?

There are still serious chronic diseases that cannot be cured with today's knowledge. In these cases, drugs help slow or stop the progression of these diseases. In addition to the drug treatment, accompanying measures (e.g. diet changes, targeted exercise) can support and supplement the treatment.

Care and safety come first

In Austria, all pharmaceuticals have to go through a multi-stage process before they are approved. Effectiveness and safety are checked in detail. The legislature regulates the use of pharmaceuticals to protect patients very precisely. In principle, medicinal products may only be sold in pharmacies or in house pharmacies by established doctors. Some medicines are also legally allowed to be sold in drugstores and drugstores. Certain medications require a prescription and can only be prescribed by a doctor.

What are drugs?

The definition of medicinal products is regulated by law: Substances and preparations made from substances are designated as medicinal products if their effect is used to heal, alleviate, prevent or identify diseases or complaints. This also includes diagnostic aids, medical liquids and solutions (infusions), homeopathic medicines or medicines that are prepared in pharmacies (magistral preparations).

The Medicines Act refers to drugs as medicinal specialties. They must be manufactured in advance in the same composition and marketed in a specific form under the same name.

Note Substances are also added to the body in food and beverages or cosmetics. These products are not drugs because of their effects. It must not be given the impression that they are capable of producing pharmacological effects.

Targeted effect: what matters

Medicines are described, among other things, according to their mode of action or their area of action in the body. Depending on how they work, they can have anti-inflammatory, antipyretic, antihypertensive, analgesic or anticoagulant effects, for example.

The following factors influence the effect of a drug:

Amount of active ingredient

A drug only partially consists of the actual active ingredient. The rest consists of other components and auxiliary materials. The composition is described in the instructions for use (package insert). A drug is often available with different active ingredient strengths (e.g. 100 mg / tablet or 50 mg / ml infusion).

Auxiliary materials

So that the active ingredient can be taken and then reaches the right place in the body in the desired time, the drug contains various auxiliary substances, e.g. gelatin, water, petroleum jelly, etc. Auxiliary substances are substances that bring drugs into a preparation form and influence their properties. They have a carrier function, can control the release of active ingredients or increase stability.

Combination of active ingredients

Some drugs consist of more than one therapeutically active substance. A certain effect is produced by the combination of active ingredients. All active ingredients contained in the medication are described in the instructions for use.

Dosage form

Whether tablet, cream or injection - the dosage form determines how the substances are absorbed in the body.

  • Local application: The active ingredient is administered directly to the point where it is supposed to work.
  • Systemic use: The active ingredient is distributed throughout the body via the bloodstream in order to reach the areas to be treated. The substance can be absorbed through the outer or inner body surface (skin or mucous membrane of the gastrointestinal tract) or injected into the tissue and distributed in the organism through the bloodstream or the lymphatic system.

Duration of action

Bioavailability describes how quickly and to what extent the therapeutic agent reaches its destination in the body. This is influenced by the active ingredient itself, the mode of action, the strength of the active ingredient, the dosage form and the auxiliary substances. The bioavailability can be measured over the course of the concentration in the blood (blood level). If the blood levels of two different drugs that contain the same active ingredient are almost identical, they are considered bioequivalent. Bioequivalence is an important factor in the approval of generics.


A medicine can disappear from the bloodstream quickly, but it can work on the cells for longer. The half-life of a drug indicates how long it takes for half of the active ingredient to be excreted. The rhythm of taking the drug is based on this. A drug that remains in the body for a long time is believed to have benefits in continuous treatment. If a dose is forgotten or if it is too early or too late, there should be hardly any fluctuations in effect.

Generic: what is it?

Generics are drugs with the same active substance as drugs that were originally protected by patent. Generic drugs have the same active ingredient, the same effect and the same safety profile as tried and tested brand name drugs. Like original products, they are rigorously tested, but they can be produced much cheaper. What a generic is is defined in the Medicines Act, Section 1 (19), and in the European Medicines Directive. Accordingly, a generic is a medicinal product that has the same qualitative and quantitative composition of active ingredients as the reference product (originator product). The dosage form (e.g. tablets, juice, suppositories) must also be practically the same. It must also be demonstratedthat the active ingredient of the generic is detectable in the blood in the same amount as with the originator product. Evidence is provided in so-called bioavailability or bioequivalence studies.

Generics are an important part of the drug supply. On the one hand, the increased use of generics can reduce the costs of everyday care for patients. On the other hand, the supply of expensive special drugs - including innovative cancer drugs or drugs for rare diseases - should remain possible due to the cost containment through generics.

Treatment with generic drugs

Active ingredients that have proven themselves over the years are usually used as generics. In Austria, if several therapeutically equivalent drugs are available, contract doctors of the health insurance funds are required to prescribe the cheapest one. The social security information tool provides information on whether therapeutic alternatives (e.g. generics) are available for a particular drug and which drug is the cheapest.

Further information: BASG / AGES Medical Market Authority.

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