A medicine is a compound that contains a drug in a prepared formulation for one of the following reasons:

  • To treat an illness e.g. antibiotics for an infection
  • To relieve the symptoms of an illness e.g. pain relief for arthritis
  • To prevent illness e.g. vaccinations
  • To ensure the body is working correctly e.g. to keep blood pressure within safe levels!
  • To improve the quality of life e.g. antidepressants

A drug is defined as ‘something that is taken into the body changes the way the body works’.

The medicines Act 1968 classifies medicines into three legal categories:

  1. POM - Prescription Only Medicines
    These are medicines that can only be supplied on receipt of a prescription from a registered premises i.e. a pharmacy or dispensing GP. Doctors, dentists and some prescribing nurses and pharmacists can write prescriptions.The symbol POM will appear somewhere on the packaging
  2. P- Pharmacy medicines
    These medicines may only be sold in a pharmacy under the supervision of a pharmacist. They are stored behind the medicine counter and not available for self-selection. The symbol P will appear somewhere on the packaging
  3. GSL - General Sales List Medicines
    These medicines do not have to be sold in a pharmacy. They are generally only available in small quantities and are displayed on open shelves from any retail premises.

Some medicines can be classed in more than one of these categories e.g. Paracetamol tablets:

Pack Size Drug Classification
16 GSL
32 P
100 POM

Controlled Drugs (CD's)

These medicines have been classified as ‘dangerous or otherwise harmful’ and their use is governed by The Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. They can be either P or POM medications and they can be subject to strict storage and recording requirements to regulate their use. These will be studied in more detail later in this training package.

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