Acronyms of medicines: what do they mean and why do they exist?

Reading the package insert is always important for obtaining information about any medication. It contains the modes of use, dosage (dosage), contraindications, mechanisms of action of the substance and a series of other information.

Many are quickly clarified in the package insert, but it is quite common to find some acronyms in the boxes or packages of medicines that do not seem to make much sense.

Some common ones are AP, CR, LP, SL, SR or XR.

In fact, these are nomenclatures that assist in the specification of the drug and are, yes, quite informative. Many of them advise on the release – that is, the start of action – of the medicine.

The timing and release mechanism interferes with the action, as the effects can be more or less lasting, immediate or delayed, peaked or stabilized.

When there is no acronym on the package leaflet and packaging of the medicine, it means that there was no change in its formulation or release mechanism (thus, it is called conventional release).

Therefore, below is an explanation of some of the main acronyms related to the release and action of the active principles, to assist in the understanding of the medication action:

Why are drugs classified by release?

For medicines to be able to act correctly, treating diseases, dysfunctions or any other purpose, they must be properly absorbed.

When there is no change in the formulation or substance that modifies the release of the active ingredient, the drug is part of the conventional release group . But if there are changes, it is called a modified release .

Often, a medication needs to act only in the intestine, but to get there, it will pass through the stomach, where the stomach acid action occurs, being able to digest it.

In such cases, it is necessary that the remedy has components that prevent the degradation and release of the active ingredient before the ideal place.

The same thing happens with some remedies that need to act for a long time, that is, have a prolonged effect. For example, medicines for hypertension or diabetes .

Thus, components are used that affect or modify the form of drug release.

The purpose of the release modifications may also aim at minor side effects, decrease the frequency of use per day or even the dosage.

What are the forms of modified release?

Aiming to improve the drug action more and more, the industry invests in components that modify the action of releasing the active principle, which can bring better results to the treatments.

Modified release forms can delay or prolong release. This applies to various drug presentations, such as pills, eye drops, transdermal patches or suppositories.

Prolonged release

These drugs act in a controlled manner, with the active ingredient being released in specific amounts, duration and scope.

They are common for those treatments that need to keep the drug in regulated amounts in the blood, allowing for a reduction in daily doses, for example.

According to ANVISA, prolonged-release drugs allow at least a reduction in use or dose when compared to the immediate version

Delayed release

The delayed release is usually provided by oral medications with an enteric coating. This means that the pill or pill passes intact through the stomach, being released only in the intestinal tract.

Targeted release

The targeted action refers to the drugs that need to act in specific places in the body.

Repeated or double action

There are also medications that have immediate and delayed release, acting in two moments after ingestion.

What are the acronyms related to the release and what do they mean?

To know the release of the medicine, just identify the acronym that follows the name of the medicine. The most common are:

  • AP – Prolonged Action: acts for a longer time in the body compared to short-term ones (for example, Winter AP – decongestant);
  • CD – Controlled Diffusion : has control over the release of the active ingredient, ensuring that drug rates are available for longer (for example, Angipress CD – antihypertensive – or Lamitor CD – anti-epileptic);
  • CLR – Regulated Chrono-Release: the release is made slowly, gradually and progressively, avoiding peaks of the medication and extending its action (for example, Biofenac CLR – anti-inflammatory);
  • CR – Controlled Release: controlled release medications cause the action to be prolonged (for example, Tegretol CR – anticonvulsant);
  • DEPOT – Prolonged Action: the medication can be deposited or stored in parts of the body, being slowly released (for example, Flufenan Depot – antiepileptic – or Suprefact Depot – cancer treatment);
  • DI – Instant disintegration: the drug is quickly disintegrated and released (for example, Biofenac DI – analgesic);
  • DL – Slow breakdown: the medication is released more slowly, causing the effects to be prolonged (for example, Dramin B6 DL – antiemetic);
  • LA – Long Acting or Long Action: the medication has a prolonged action (for example, Rebaten LA – antihypertensive);
  • LP – Prolonged Release: the substance is gradually released, causing its action to be prolonged by the delay in release (for example, Biofenac LP – anti-inflammatory);
  • OROS – Osmotic Release Oral System: the Oral Osmotic Release System promotes prolonged release of the substance (for example, Adalat OROS – antihypertensive);
  • Plus : designates medicines with a stronger dosage or that have other components added (for example, Pericard PLUS – antihypertensive);
  • Retard – Delayed action: they are delayed action drugs, which after release have a prolonged action (for example, Arflex Retard – analgesic and anti-inflammatory);
  • SR – Sustained Release: are drugs that are sustained or prolonged release, with a specific mechanism of rapid and prolonged action (for example, Cardizem CR – antihypertensive);
  • TTS – Transdermal Therapeutic System: the transdermal therapeutic system facilitates the passage of substances through the skin layers, reaching the bloodstream (for example, Estragest TTS – hormone replacement);
  • UD – Single dose: drugs that require a single dose (for example, For example, Klaricid UD – antibiotic);
  • XR or XL – eXtended Release: these are extended-release drugs that remain in effect longer (for example, Efexor XR or Zetron XL – both antidepressants);

Other acronyms of medicines

There are also other acronyms that may appear on the packaging of medicines, but are not related to the release of the active ingredient. Among the most common:

  • HFA – Hidrofluoralkane: substance used in pressurized inhaler devices (for example, Clenil HFA – anti-inflammatory and anti-asthmatic);
  • OD – Orodispersible: medicines that dissolve quickly on the tongue (for example, Zomig OD – migraine treatment);
  • ODT – Orally Disintegrating Tablet or Orally Dissolving Tablet: are oral disintegrating or degraded tablets in the mouth (for example, Razapina ODT – antidepressant);
  • BD – Bis in die: Latin expression that means “twice a day” (for example, Velamox BD – antibiotic);
  • SL – Sublingual: are drugs placed under the tongue, which promote action from the mouth (for example, Feldene SL – anti-inflammatory);
  • RC – Reduced Concentration: drugs with reduced concentration (for example, Lumigan RC – ophthalmic solution);
  • HCT – Hydrochlorothiazide: substance with diuretic action (for example, Atacand HCT – antihypertensive);
  • DC : drugs indicated for Headache, although there may be other indications (for example, Tylenol DC – antipyretic and analgesic);
  • D : presentation in dispersible tablets, that is to say, of rapid disintegration (for example, Cataflam D – anti-inflammatory and analgesic)

Paying attention to the package leaflet and the information contained in the medication packaging can help to understand how the substances act in the body.

The acronyms or other elements that may appear are very important, and may indicate various actions, such as the form of release and action.

To learn more tips and curiosities about medicines and health, follow the Healthy Minute!