What is a medicine?

What is medicine

A medicine or a medicinal product is product or substance used to cure, alleviate or prevent an illness and its symptoms. For example, antibiotics cure illnesses caused by bacteria, painkillers alleviate headache and vaccines can be used to prevent illnesses. Examples of active substances include ibuprofen, paracetamol and timolol.

Medicines are available in various forms, such as tablets, eye drops, nasal drops, solution for injection and powder for inhalation. Different pharmaceutical forms can be used to affect how fast the medicine works and where its effect is targeted. Each pharmaceutical form has practical implications that should be taken into consideration. These are described in the package leaflet.

Over-the-counter medicine

Some of the medicines are over-the-counter (OTC) medicines that are available from pharmacies without a prescription. OTC medicines are used for treating mild and short-term symptoms that do not require an appointment with a doctor.

Ask a pharmacist, doctor or nurse for self-care instructions.

Prescription medicine

Prescription medicines mean medicines that are only available with a doctor’s prescription. Prescription medicines are used, for example, when the illness has to be diagnosed by a doctor or successful medication requires monitoring. The dosage is always prescribed individually, because the same medicine may have a different effect on different people. Prescription medicines are always personal.

The prescriptions are in electronic format. Paper prescriptions are only used in exceptional cases. In that case, the pharmacy converts the prescription into electronic format. Prescriptions are usually valid for two years. When you go to collect a prescription medicine, the pharmacy verifies that you have the right to collect it. This information is included in the patient instructions provided by the doctor. You can also show your right to collect medicines prescribed for you with your Kela card or identity card.

If you need the medicine after the prescription has expired, your doctor may write a new prescription for you. To request the health care unit to renew an electronic prescription, log into the My Kanta Pages. You can also request the renewal of a prescription through the pharmacy. If you are on regular medication for a chronic illness, it is recommended to see a doctor from time to time. You should see a doctor also if you have problems with your medication, a medicine is not working or you suspect that it has adverse effects. Some prescriptions cannot be renewed electronically. These include medication intended for short-time or one-off treatment, such as sleep medicine for temporary insomnia or an antibiotic for a bacterial infection.

Read more about pharmaceutical forms and definitions:

What are the different pharmaceutical forms?, Medicines Education Material by Fimea. Maintained by Terve koululainen, UKK-institute.

The Medicines Act. Chapter 1 contains a definition of active substance and medicinal product.