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Introduction

There are several systems of drug classification. One is based on the body system that is most affected (e.g., respiratory drugs, cardiac drugs); another is based on the therapeutic action (e.g., antihypertensive, antacid); and another is based on the chemical action of the drug (e.g., cholinergic, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor). As the following table indicates, most drugs fall into several classes.

This table contains a list of the most commonly prescribed medications in the United States. The first column lists the drugs alphabetically according to generic names, followed by the common brand names in the second column. The third column lists the drugs’ therapeutic classifications, and the fourth column lists the most common uses of the drugs.

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Generic Name Brand Name Therapeutic Classification Common Use
A
acarbose Precose Alpha-glucosidase inhibitor Slows digestion of complex carbohydrates
acebutolol Sectral Beta blocker/Beta-adrenergic blocking agent Decreases heart rate and cardiac output
acetaminophen Tylenol Analgesic and antipyretic Relieves minor aches and pains; reduces fever
acetazolamide Diamox Carbonic anhydrase inhibitor: topical, oral, or intravenous Treats glaucoma; decreases fluid production
adalimumab Humira Immunosuppressant Treats rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis; blocks tumor necrosis factor (TNF)
albuterol AccuNeb, Proventil, Ventolin Short-acting bronchodilator Dilates, or opens up, bronchi for quick relief of acute asthma symptoms
alemtuzumab Campath Immunotherapy Stimulates the immune system to recognize and attack cancer cells
alendronate Fosamax Bisphosphonate Treats osteoporosis; increases bone density
allopurinol Zyloprim Xanthine oxidase inhibitor Treats gout; blocks the production of uric acid in the body
alphagan Brimonidine Tartrate Alpha agonist (ophthalmic) Treats glaucoma; decreases fluid production and/or increases fluid drainage
alprostadil Caverject, Edex, Muse Impotence agent Causes vasodilation and increases blood flow to penis to cause an erection
alteplase Activase Thrombolytic Dissolves a thrombus
alupent Metaproterenol Short-acting bronchodilator Dilates, or opens up, bronchi for quick relief of acute asthma symptoms
amantadine Symadine, Symmetrel Anti-influenza agent, antiviral (not a vaccine) Relieves symptoms and reduces the duration of certain types of influenza
amiloride Midamor Diuretic (water pill) Removes excess fluids and sodium from the body; relieves the heart’s workload
amlodipine Norvasc, Lotrel Calcium channel blocker Interrupts movement of calcium into cells; decreases the heart’s pumping strength and relaxes blood vessels
amoxicillin Amoxil Penicillin Antibiotic; prevents bacterial cell wall formation
ampicillin Omnipen, Principen Penicillin Antibiotic; prevents bacterial cell wall formation
anthralin Drithocreme, Micanol, Psoriatec, Zithranol Antipsoriatic Slows down the growth of skin cells
apraclonidine Lopidine Alpha agonist (ophthalmic) Treats glaucoma; decreases fluid production and/or increases fluid drainage
arsenic trioxide Arsenox Differentiating agent Forces cancer cells to mature into normal cells
aspart NovoLog Insulin Insulin replacement; helps glucose get into cells
aspirin Bayer, Bufferin, Ecotrin Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) Reduces inflammation, pain, and fever
  Ascriptin, St. Joseph 81 mg Platelet aggregation inhibitor, salicylate Prevents thrombus formation; reduces pain and inflammation
atazanavir Reyataz Antiretroviral; nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor (NRTI) Prevents the HIV virus from spreading
atenolol Tenormin Beta blocker/Beta-adrenergic blocking agent Decreases heart rate ...

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