What are the Types of Medications?

Medications can be classified according to their action, route of administration, or therapeutic effects. Learn the types of medications in this article!
What are the Types of Medications?

Last update: 25 May, 2021

Types of medications can be classified according to their action, route of administration, or therapeutic effects. The WHO uses the ATC code (Anatomical, Therapeutic, Chemical). This is a European coding system for pharmaceutical substances and types of medicines. 

According to this system, each drug has an ATC code that is specified in its technical sheet. This code consists of seven alphanumeric digits. However, currently, the same active principle can have more than one ATC code if it has different uses.

Let’s take a closer look.

What is a drug?

A drug is a medicine or substance, or the combination of several substances, that has properties used for treating or preventing diseases.

In addition, people take drugs to restore, correct or modify physiological functions. Also, drugs exert a pharmacological, immunological, or metabolic action.

Pharmacist giving pills

Active principle

This is the component responsible for the drug’s activity. Also, it’s any substance of human, animal, plant, chemical, or another origin, which acts by itself in our bodies. In addition, it’s important to know that the same medicine can contain one or more active ingredients. 


In general, drugs only require a very small amount of active ingredients. Therefore, to help its effectiveness, it’s mixed with excipients. These are substances without any activity that are added to the active principles for these purposes:

  • Serve as a vehicle.
  • Make its preparation stability possible.
  • Have good organoleptic properties.
  • Determine the physicochemical properties of the drug, as well as its bioavailability.

Certain excipients must be listed on the medication’s packaging. This is especially true for some sweeteners, which need to be noted for people with diabetes or those who are lactose intolerant.

How do they classify types of medications?

Generally, we use medications that will alleviate symptoms such as fever, pain, allergies, and numerous other ailments that affect our bodies.

To learn to differentiate the types of medications, the simplest classification is based on the main pharmacological actions or therapeutic effects. 

Doctor holding pills


This group of drugs helps to relieve pain caused by injuries, blows, or wounds. Also, pain relievers can be opioid or non-opioid.

Using opioids can lead to dependence, such as morphine addiction. Therefore, you should only use them under medical supervision. However, non-opioids, like paracetamol, can be purchased without a prescription.


For the most part, people take these drugs to reduce fever. However, they also have analgesic properties like paracetamol and acetylsalicylic acid (aspirin).

Types of medications: Laxatives and antidiarrheals

Laxatives are medications that help to relieve occasional constipation or constipation that is a side effect of certain other medications. To do so, they act as lubrication, intestinal mobility stimulation, or by increasing the intestinal bolus. 

However, you shouldn’t use these drugs for a long period of time. If you do, the intestine won’t work properly. That’s because the intestinal flora will change and you won’t be able to absorb nutrients properly. Also, people use antidiarrheals to reduce the number and consistency of stools in diarrheal processes.


Within this group, they classify the drugs according to the agent causing the infection:

  • Antibiotics, bacterial infections
  • Anti-fungals, yeast infections.
  • Antivirals, viral infections.
Some antibiotics

Types of medications: Antitussives and mucolytics

This type of medication is used to treat irritating, non-productive coughs. To do so, they act on the central or peripheral nervous system to suppress the cough reflex.

In addition, mucolytics help to thin mucus and help to get rid of it. As a result, the patient can breathe easier.

Types of medications: Antacids

These drugs reduce acidity and gastric secretions. They neutralize acidity or decrease acid production in the stomach. In addition, one of the best-known antacids is omeprazole. 


This includes medications that alleviate the negative effects of allergies. In addition, they help with hypersensitivity reactions. Antihistamines are the ones that people use the most.


In conclusion, there are many drugs and the amount of them keeps growing, as is the case with biological drugs. It’s important to use drugs carefully and to see a health professional to avoid self-medication. 

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