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Year : 2015  |  Volume : 47  |  Issue : 6  |  Page : 695--696

The need of a uniform drug classification in text books of pharmacology

Dasaraju Rajesh 
 Department of Pharmacology, K.S Hegde Medical Academy, Nitte University, Deralakatte, Mangalore, Karnataka, India

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Dasaraju Rajesh
Department of Pharmacology, K.S Hegde Medical Academy, Nitte University, Deralakatte, Mangalore, Karnataka

How to cite this article:
Rajesh D. The need of a uniform drug classification in text books of pharmacology.Indian J Pharmacol 2015;47:695-696

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Rajesh D. The need of a uniform drug classification in text books of pharmacology. Indian J Pharmacol [serial online] 2015 [cited 2020 Sep 29 ];47:695-696
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Pharmacology is the study of drugs. A drug can be defined as a chemical substance of known structure, other than a nutrient or an essential dietary ingredient, which, when administered to a living organism, produces a biological effect. Thus, substances such as heroin, marijuana, cocaine, or insecticides can be classified as drugs. However, the term drug commonly means any medication that is used for diagnosing, curing, or treating disease. In its beginnings, before the advent of synthetic organic chemistry, pharmacology concerned itself exclusively with understanding the effects of natural substances, mainly plant extracts. Beginning in the 20th century, synthetic chemistry began to revolutionize the pharmaceutical industry. Many of the drugs that once were obtained from plants and animals are now chemically synthesized in laboratories. The receptor concept and the technologies developed from it have had a massive impact on drug discovery and therapeutics. In addition, advances in molecular biology and gene therapy have generated new types of drugs such as monoclonal antibodies.

As and when a new drug is discovered/invented, the task of every scientist lies in its placement under a class. Drugs are being classified on the basis of:

Chemical nature of drug: For example, glycoside, alkaloid, steroidSymptoms or diseases in which they are used: For example, anti-hypertensive, anti-malarial, anti-tubercular, or anti-epileptic agentsOrgan system affected: Alimentary, cardiovascular, respiratory, nervous, etc.Generations: Anti-microbials such as cephalosporins and oral hypoglycemic agents such as sulfonylureas and H1 anti-histaminic drugsReceptor theory: Cholinoreceptor agents, adrenoceptor agents, serotonin receptor agents, dopamine receptor agents, etc.Duration of action: Ultra-short acting, short acting, intermediate acting, long acting, ultra-long acting agentsRoute of administration: Inhaled beta-agonists, inhaled steroids, oral hypoglycemic agents, etc.

Here I would like to present an example of different ways adopted in classifying “Diuretics” in four standard pharmacology text books [Table 1].{Table 1}

Diuretics are not the only group of drugs being classified in this way. In the Anatomical Therapeutic Chemical classification system, developed by Norwegian researchers in accordance with policies determined by the World Health Organization,[5] diuretics are classified as:

Low-ceiling diuretics, thiazidesLow-ceiling diuretics, excluding thiazidesHigh-ceiling diureticsPotassium-sparing agentsOther diuretics.

Thus a discrepancy exists in the classification of drugs as adopted by different authors. Information from various available literature sources is reproduced in the text books in the form that is easy to understand. Information in a text book can be more or less dependent upon author's ability to review the literature. Drug classification is an important component of pharmacology, since it gives a clear, concise introduction to the reader. In a country where students are graded based on their ability to write descriptive answers, students may find it difficult to remember different ways of classifying the same class of drugs. It is therefore suggested that the authors of text books must adopt a uniform universally acceptable method of classification of drugs for better comprehension and recall.

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1Brunton LL, Chabner BA, Knollman BC. Goodman and Gilman's the Pharmacological Basis of Therapeutics. 12th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill; 2011. p. 672-717.
2Ives HE. Diuretic agents. In: Katzung BG, Masters SB, Trevor AJ, editors. Basic and Clinical Pharmacology. 12th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill; 2012. p. 251-70.
3Tripathi KD. Essentials of Medical Pharmacology. 7th ed. New Delhi: Jaypee Brothers Medical Publishers (P) Ltd.; 2013. p. 579-92.
4Sharma HL, Sharma KK. Principles of Pharmacology. 2nd ed. New Delhi: Paras Medical Publisher; 2011. p. 223-37.
5WHO Collaborating Centre for Drug Statistics Methodology, Guidelines for ATC Classification and DDD Assignment, 2015. Oslo; 2014. p. 95. Available from: [Last accessed on 2014 Dec 20].