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Linné on line arrow Linnaeus and Pharmacy arrow Plants are important arrow Developing a new drug arrow Pharmacological tests arrow The formulation of drugs

The formulation of drugs

A drug can have many different forms depending upon how it is manufactured, to be taken or the desired effect. The most common forms of drugs are tablets or solutions. The solutions can be made either to be taken orally, like cough medicine, or injected, as in the case of insulin. Eye drops are solutions that are administered directly into the eye.

A tablet can be manufactured in different ways depending on its intended purpose. A tablet can be made soft, to be dissolved in the mouth, or really hard so that it doesn’t break up before reaching the intestines, i.e., after passing through the acids in the stomach. Certain headache or vitamin products are in the form of effervescent tablets.

Making drugs
© Pharmacia & Upjohn
Photo: Steven Q.

The classic form for a drug is the pill, a soft, pea-sized ball containing the drug and taken orally. Pharmacists used to roll them by hand. Nowadays pills, or tablets as they are also called, are manufactured in machines and consist of powders that are pressed together to form a compact mass.

Drugs can be taken orally, i.e. through the mouth (tablets, capsules, solutions), injected into the body (solutions), inhaled (powders and solutions), through the skin (ointments, creams and certain plasters), drops applied locally in the eye or ear (solutions) or inserted into the anus (suppositories) or the vagina (vaginal suppositories).

In Linnaeus’ time there were other forms of drugs that in school medicine we more seldom use today, for example solutions such as decocts (when for instance a plant is boiled in water), infusions (the same method as we use when making tea), and tinctures (extracts made with alcohol). They also used preserves (plant parts pounded together with equal amounts of sugar) and confections (ill-tasting plant parts covered in sugar to make them palatable). In modern usage the concept confection has been taken over by the industry producing sweets and candy. The modern way of manufacturing tablets wasn’t invented until the 1840s.

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