top of page

Drug or Medication?

I recently posted an article about how medicines may have different names.

For instance, I treat my seasonal allergies with Claritin. However, this medication has a generic nameloratadine. Claritin is a trade name for loratadine. There are many other trade names (brands) for this medication in the US, such as Alavert, Clear-Atadine, and Wal-itin.

Additionally, loratadine has a chemical name. I've checked several sources, and they don't seem to agree with this denomination. According to, it's:

1-Piperidinecarboxylic acid, 4-(8-chloro-5,6-dihydro-11H-benzo[5,6]cyclohepta[1,2-b]pyridin-11-ylidene)-, etyl ester

After an introduction to pharmacology, courtesy of Blue Urpi's webinar "*Fármacos, medicamentos y otras hierbas," I've been expanding my knowledge thanks to AulaSIC's course about terminology in the pharmaceutical industry.

One thing that I've noticed is that, although the words drug and medication are often used as synonyms, they actually refer to different concepts:

  • A drug is a chemical substance that will produce an impact upon interacting with a living organism.

  • A medication is a combination of substances used to diagnose, cure, treat, or prevent disease.

People may also associate the concept of drugs with that of street drugs or recreational drugs. These substances are taken for non-medical purposes and obtained by illicit means. They're often addictive and may lead to major public health problems.

In pharmacology, drugs are broadly known as active ingredients. Medicines contain both active ingredients and inactive ones. Inactive ingredients are known as excipients, and their mission is to give form or consistency to the active ingredients.

MORE: Inactive Drug Ingredients (Excipients)

A medication may have one or more active ingredients. For instance, Claritin has only one active ingredient – loratadine; and Claritin-D has two active ingredients – loratadine and pseudoephedrine.

While both medications are used to treat allergy symptoms, Claritin-D includes a decongestant (pseudoephedrine) to treat nasal congestion and sinus pressure.


  • A drug may or may not be a medication.

  • A medication always contains at least one drug.

If you're looking to translate pharmaceutical content from English into Spanish, feel free to reach out!

*That webinar is also available in English.


Thank you for subscribing!

bottom of page