Pharmacy Technician Terms Every Student Should Know

Posted on 12.23.2019

Young pharmacist holding a tablet and box of medications.

When you become a pharmacy technician, you are thrown into the medical field, which may include a very confusing mess of pharmacy technician vocabulary and terms. To make sure you are prepared for your job, here is a list of some of the best terms you need to know to be a successful pharmacy tech. 

Absorption Rate 

How long it takes for a drug to enter into the bloodstream. 

Adverse Reaction

Any unwanted or dangerous reaction a patient experiences to a drug. A pharmacy technician will often use this term when instructing patients about a new drug and warning them about any adverse reactions they might experience. 


A drug that activates certain receptors in the brain to trigger a reaction. Agonist drugs create action in neural pathways. This is the opposite of antagonist drugs. 


 Drugs used to suppress or manage pain; pain relievers.


A drug that manages pain by stopping the transmission of that pain in the nervous system. It doesn’t dull the pain, it makes it so that your brain never receives those feelings from your body. There are three types of anesthesia: local, regional, and general. Local numbs the pain in one area of the body. Regional blocks the pain in a larger portion of the body like an arm or a leg. General anesthesia blocks all pain in the body. 


A drug that blocks action transmitted by neurotransmitters through neural receptors. Antagonist drugs stop action from happening in neural pathways. This is the opposite of agonist drugs. 


A drug that is water-based or is meant to be. 


A frequently recurring illness, or one persisting for a long time.


A disease or illness that is transmittable.


The final substance or solution that results from mixing two or more substances.


A fluid used to liquify powder or dilute the concentration of a solution. 

Dram (fluid) 

A unit of measurement for fluids. It is ⅛ of an ounce. One fluid dram roughly equals 3.7 mL. 

Enteric Coated

An extra coating on a tablet that controls where the drug is absorbed in the digestive tract. The stronger the coating, the later in the digestive process the drug dissolves and is absorbed. 


A unit of dry measure with 437.5 grains/ounce and 15.43 grains/gram. 

Inert Ingredients

Filler or nondrug ingredients. They serve no medical purpose within a prescription. They can include preservatives, stabilizing agents, and other necessary parts of the medication necessary to be able to deliver or maintain the drug.


One one-millionth of something. It will be shown in abbreviations as “µ”. A microgram (µg) is 1/1,000,000 of a gram. 


One one-thousandth of something. It will be shown in abbreviations as “m.” A milligram (mg) is 1/1,000 of a gram.

Orange Book

The “Approved Drug Products with Therapeutic Equivalence Evaluations” published by the FDA. This is used as a resource to help when choosing generic substitutions for drugs. 

Over the Counter/OTC

Any drug that can be purchased without a prescription. 


A unit of measurement for fluids. One pint is 16 ounces. 


A substance or treatment that contains no medicine, but the patient assumes that it does. Most often used in clinical trials to experiment as part of double-blind studies. 


To mix a drug in powder form with a fluid before administering it. 

Red Book

Used to help determine the average wholesale price (AWP). Mainly used for third-party insurance billing. 

Scored Tablet

A drug tablet that has a slight indent as part of the tablet to make it easier to split in half or into quarters. 

Sig Code

Refers to a wide variety of medical abbreviations and acronyms, often Latin-based, used by health-care professionals as instructions. Prescription sig codes give directions on taking or administering a drug. For example, tk is an abbreviation for take, while po is an acronym for Latin per os, by mouth, that is, orally.

TPN Solution

Total parenteral nutrition provides intravenous nutrients to a patient whose digestive tract must be bypassed.