Some techniques to remember the names of medicines

About the Author: Hafiza Hadia Tahir is one of the most talented students of Hajvery University, Lahore, Pakistan. She is studying in Pharm. D.


What an interesting topic to discuss!…But not so easy to do so in reality. It is sometimes easy to remember drugs’ name and sometimes it seems difficult.

[sociallocker]I just recite “بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ”, when I start learning and this is a fact that it makes my job much easier. Obviously, because any good things when started in the name of ALLAH Almighty, seeking His help never goes harder or in vain.

Let us have a brief look at the meanings of this verse, which is very light to say and requires a few seconds but is very effective.

The word “بِ” according to Arabic dictionary means to seek, help, support, and guidance. So, the whole verse connotes that I seek help or humbly ask for effective help and strongest support from my Almighty ALLAH for this good purpose of mine and ALLAH, no doubt, is the most Beneficent and Merciful.

And I believe that when I will ask for help He will definitely help me and will shower His Mercy on me because He says, in-fact He promises, “ادْعُونِي أَسْتَجِبْ لَكُمْ” (Quran Majeed, Sura # 40, Aya # 60), “Ask Me and I will answer you” (meaning I will give you what you are asking for.)

In addition to this some other ways may be adopted to manage in memorizing the drug names;

1st Technique:  Firstly start with memorizing of the classification of drugs such as “Antibacterials” or “CNS drugs” etc. then go to its subgroup…For example under Antibacterials “Aminoglycosides”, “Penicillins” are included …Under Penicillins, “Penicillin G”, “Penicillin V” are included.

2nd Technique: Each day memorize only that much which you can reproduce the next day. Slowly and steadily you will start remembering them.

3rd Technique: We can make an audio tape as a remainder and played it on loop while we sleep. After a couple of hours the information seemed familiar when we woke up.

4th Technique: Use of flash cards, markers or highlighters may help.

Colorize each medication with a different color marker or highlighter or write different classification on different colored flash card.

Symbol cues may also help, so draw a symbol next to drug names.

Markers, colors, highlighters are important because we are visually oriented more than we are by written language.

5th Technique: Drugs names belongs to a class can be memorize through “Alphabets” e.g. a class of Beta-blocker contain alphabet hints as: A, C, E, L, M, N [MAN, CEL]

  • Atenolol
  • Carvedilol
  • Esmolol
  • Labetolol
  • Metoprolol
  • Nadolol

6th Technique: We can also apply mnemonics. The vastness of drugs cannot be handled by our mind. So we need to compress it or zip it just as a computer would do to files!

We make mnemonics, a certain story or figure came in our mind that would help us to recall the drugs. Let’s say for Beta-blockers from antihypertensives, they have almost same ending “-olols” such as metoprolol, propranolol etc.

It may be a helpful way to memorize the drugs but there is a problem with some classes that is some classes may have an outlier which does not sound like other drugs belonging to same class. For example, an outlier would be diltiazim, a Ca-channel blocker (CCB) which doesn’t sound like nifedipine, felodipine and verapamil, as CCBs usually end in “ine or il”. So, you have to know this one on its own.

Other example is Ethacrynic acid which is a loop diuretic and it does not sound like furosemide, bumetanide and torsemide.

As far as confusing classes of drugs such as “Anti-arrhythmics”, you just make a chart and learn which drugs belong in which subgroup but again…if you make the chart, there is usually some consistency and you just have to learn outliers.

A chart can help you to remember drugs names through their end bits…

A Chart

-aneInhalation gasesIsoflurane
-caineLocal anestheticCocaine
-cillinAntibiotics (Protease synthesis inhibitors)Amoxicillin
-navirProtease inhibitorSaquinavir
-oxinCardiac glycosidesDigoxin
-phylineMethyl xanthineTheophylline
-prilACE inhibitorEnalapril
-terolBeta2 agonistSalmeterol
-tidineH2 antagonistNizatidine
-triptan5HT agonist/migraineSumatriptan
-tropinPituitary hormoneAdrenocorticotropin
-zosinA1 antagonistPrazosin
-doneOpioid analgesicCodone (Codeine)
-ideOral hypoglycemicsGlimipride


The best way to learn drug names….well that depends on how you learn. Find out which way helps you learn best and stick to it. Once you will find something that works for sure, you will know how to learn it well.

Just be creative and give sometime making mnemonics or chart and I want to say repetition is the key to success in memorizing the drug names if you make a habit of it surely you will be mastering it.

I don’t know about your expectations from this article but above mentioned ways will surely help you to learn a vast number of drugs in a short period of time.

Good luck!

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