NCLEX: Pharmacology Essentials

Focus topic: Pharmacology Essentials

For a number of years, I have searched for a way to help students understand and apply knowledge of pharmacology to nursing practice. The graduate nurse is frequently responsible for instructing the client and the client’s family regarding the safe administration of medications. The study of pharmacology is constantly changing as new drugs are constantly being approved for public use by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The recent test plan approved by the National Council Licensure Exam devotes 13%–19% of the Physiological Integrity section to pharmacology. This chapter contains useful information to help you look at the classification and generic name of drugs. If you can remember the drug classification, frequently you can understand why the drug was ordered.

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Pharmacology Essentials: Three Areas of Pharmacology

Focus topic: Pharmacology Essentials

It is important to note that the study of pharmacology includes three areas:

  • Pharmacokinetics: This is the study of how drugs are absorbed, distributed, metabolized, and excreted by the body. Elderly clients and clients with renal or liver disease frequently have difficulty metabo- lizing and excreting medications. These clients can develop drug toxicity more easily than those with no renal or liver impairment.
  • Pharmacodynamics: This is the study of how drugs are used by the body. For example, pharmacodynamics of oral hypoglycemics explain how the blood glucose is reduced by stimulating the pancreatic beta cells to produce more insulin, by also making insulin receptor sites more sensitive to insulin, and by increasing the number of insulin receptor cells. These drugs are effective only if the client’s pancreas is producing some insulin.
  • Pharmacotherapeutics: This is the study of how the client responds to the drug. A client might experience side effects such as gastroin- testinal symptoms to a number of medications, including antibiotics. Side effects might cause discomfort but are usually not severe enough to warrant discontinuation of the medication. Demerol (meperidine HCl) is a narcotic analgesic that can cause nausea and vomiting. To prevent these side effects, the physician frequently orders an antiemetic called Phenergan (promethazine) to be given with Demerol. These drugs have a synergistic effect that provides pain relief while preventing the discomfort of side effects.

Adverse effects of medications result in symptoms so severe that it is necessary to reduce the dosage or discontinue the medication completely. Antituberculars and anticonvulsants are two categories of medications that can have adverse effects on the liver. The nurse should carefully assess the client’s liver function studies as well as assess for signs of jaundice that indicate drug-related hepatitis, in which case the medication will be discontinued.

Pharmacology Essentials: How Nurses Work with Pharmacology

Focus topic: Pharmacology Essentials

Nurses are expected to utilize their knowledge of pharmacology to:

  • Recognize common uses, side effects, and adverse effects of the client’s medication
  • Challenge medication errors
  • Meet the client’s learning needsGenerally, the medication the nurse is expected to administer depends on the area of practice and the assigned client. The following medication classifications are commonly prescribed for adult clients within a medical/surgical setting:
  • Anti-infectives: Used for the treatment of infections. Common side effects include GI upset.
  • Antihypertensives: Lower blood pressure and increase blood flow to the myocardium. Common side effects include orthostatic hypotension. Other side effects are specific to types of antihypertensive prescribed.
  • Antidiarrheals: Decrease gastric motility and reduce water content in the intestinal tract. Side effects include bloating and gas.
  • Diuretics: Decrease water and sodium absorption from the loop of Henle (loop diuretics) or inhibit antidiuretic hormone (potassium-sparing diuretics). Side effects of non–potassium-sparing diuretics include hypokalemia.
  • Antacids: Reduce hydrochloric acid in the stomach. A common side effect of calcium-and aluminum-based antacids is constipation. Magnesium-based antacids frequently cause diarrhea.
  • Antipyretics: Reduce fever.
  • Antihistamines: Block the release of histamine in allergic reactions. Common side effects of antihistamines are dry mouth, drowsiness, and sedation.
  • Bronchodilators: Dilate large air passages and are commonly prescribed for clients with asthma and chronic obstructive lung disease. A common side effect of these is tachycardia.
  • Laxatives: Promote the passage of stool. Types of laxatives include stool softeners, cathartics, fiber, lubricants, and stimulants.
  • Anticoagulants: Prevent clot formation by decreasing vitamin K levels and blocking the clotting chain or by preventing platelet aggregation.
  • Antianemics: Increase factors necessary for red blood cell production. Examples of antianemics include B12, iron, and Epogen (erythropoetin).
  • Narcotics/analgesics: Relieve moderate to severe pain. Medications in this cate- gory include opioids (morphine and codeine), synthetic opioids (meperidine), and NSAIDs (ketorolac).
  • Anticonvulsants: Used for the management of seizure disorder and the treatment of bipolar disorder. Medications used as anticonvulsants include phenobarbital, phenytoin (Dilantin), and lorazepam (Ativan).
  • Anticholinergics: Cause the mucous membranes to become dry; therefore, oral secretions are decreased. Anticholinergics such as atropine are often administered preoperatively.
  • Mydriatics: Dilate the pupils. Mydriatics are used in the treatment of clients with cataracts.
  • Miotics: Constrict the pupil. Miotics such as pilocarpine HCl are used in the treatment of clients with glaucoma.

Pharmacology Essentials: Time-released Drugs

Focus topic: Pharmacology Essentials

The following abbreviations indicate to the nurse that the drug is time-released. These preparations should not be crushed or opened:

  • Dur = Duration
  • SR = Sustained release
  • CR = Continuous release
  • SA = Sustained action
  • Contin = Continuous action
  • LA = Long acting

Enteric-coated tablets and caplets are those coated with a thick shell that prevents the medication from being absorbed in the upper GI tract, allowing the medication to be absorbed more slowly. Spansules are capsules containing time-released beads that are released slowly. The nurse should not alter the preparation of these types of medications. The physician should be notified to obtain an alternative preparation if the client is unable to swallow a time-released preparation.

Pharmacology Essentials: Administering Medications

Focus topic: Pharmacology Essentials

When preparing to administer medications, the nurse must identify the client by reviewing the physician’s order. She must also administer the medication by the right route. Many medications are supplied in various preparations. The physician orders the method of administration. The choice of medication administration is dependent on several factors, including the desired blood level, the client’s ability to swallow, and the disease or disorder being treated.

Pharmacology Essentials: The Seven Rights of Administering Medication

Focus topic: Pharmacology Essentials

The nurse is expected to use the seven rights when administering medications to the client. These include five rights of drug administration, plus two from the Patient’s Bill of Rights.

The Patient’s Bill of Rights was enacted to protect the client’s well-being, both mentally and physically. The client has the right to refuse treatment, which can include medications. The nurse must document any treatment provided to the client. Documentation of care given must be made promptly to prevent forgetting any details and to ensure that another nurse does not duplicate medication administration.

The seven rights of medication administration are

  • Right client: Identification of the client must be done by asking the client to state his name and checking the identification band.
  • Right route: The physician orders the prescribed route of administration.
  • Right drug: Checking both the generic and trade names with the physician’s order ensures that the right drug is administered. If the client’s diagnosis does not match the drug category, the nurse should further investigate the ordered medication.
  • Right amount: The nurse is expected to know common dosages for both adults and children.
  • Right time: The nurse can administer the medication either 30 minutes before the assigned time or 30 minutes after.
  • Right documentation (from the Patient’s Bill of Rights and legality issues in nursing): This right is different from the others in that it must be done to prevent duplicating drug administration.
  • Right to refuse treatment (from the Patient’s Bill of Rights): The client has the right to refuse medication or treatment.

Pharmacology Essentials: Understanding and Identifying the Various Drugs

Focus topic: Pharmacology Essentials

It is important to know that drugs generally have several names. The following list explains these different names for you:

  • Chemical name: This is often a number or letter designation that tells you the chemical makeup of the drug. This name is of little value to the nurse in practice.
  • Generic name: This is the name given by the company that developed the drug, and it remains the same even after the patent is released and other companies are allowed to market the medication.
  • Trade name: This is the name given to the drug by the originating company. After the drug has been released to the market for approximately four years, a trade-named medication can be released by an alternative company. The trade name will be different, while the generic name will remain the sameIt is much safer for the nurse to remember the generic name rather than the trade name because the trade name will probably change.


Approximately 80% of the time generic drugs in the same category have common sylla- bles. If you can identify the commonality within the generic names, you can more easily learn the needed information for the NCLEX. The sections that follow look at some commonly given categories of drugs and help you to recognize the commonalities in the names. As you will see, each drug has a common part in its name, which will help you to quickly identify a particular drug by the common part of the name for that drug category.

Pharmacology Essentials: Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme Inhibitors

Focus topic: Pharmacology Essentials

This category of drugs is utilized to treat both primary and secondary hypertension. These drugs work by inhibiting conversion of angiotensin I to angiotensin II. Notice that all the generic names include the syllable pril. When you see these letters, you will know that they are angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors.

Pharmacology NCLEX

When working with angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors, it is important to know the potential side effects. The following list details the possible side effects/adverse reac- tions with this drug category:

  • Hypotension
  • Hacking cough
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Rashes
  • Angioedema

The following items are nursing considerations to know when working with ACE inhibitors:

  • Monitor the vital signs frequently.
  • Monitor the white blood cell count.
  • Monitor the potassium and creatinine levels.
  • Monitor the electrolyte levels.

Pharmacology Essentials: Beta Adrenergic Blockers

Focus topic: Pharmacology Essentials

Beta adrenergic blockers are drugs that help lower blood pressure, pulse rate, and cardiac output. They are also used to treat migraine headaches and other vascular headaches. Certain preparations of the beta blockers are used to treat glaucoma and prevent myocardial infarctions. These drugs act by blocking the sympathetic vasomotor response.

Notice the syllable olol. When you see these letters, you will know that these drugs are beta blockers.


The potential side effects/adverse reactions of beta adrenergic blockers are listed here:

  • Orthostatic hypotension
  • Bradycardia
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • May mask hypoglycemic symptoms

The following list gives you some nursing interventions for working with clients using beta adrenergic blockers:

  • Monitor the client’s blood pressure, heart rate, and rhythm.
  • Monitor the client for signs of edema. The nurse should assess lung sounds for rales and rhonchi.
  • Monitor the client for changes in lab values (protein, BUN, creatinine) that indi- cate nephrotic syndrome.
  • Teach the client to:
    • Rise slowly
    • Report bradycardia, dizziness, confusion, depression, or fever
    • Taper off the medication

Pharmacology Essentials: Anti-Infectives (Aminoglycosides)

Focus topic: Pharmacology Essentials

Anti-infective drugs include bactericidals and bacteriostatics. They interfere with the protein synthesis of the bacteria, causing the bacteria to die. They are active against most aerobic gram-negative bacteria and against some gram-positive organisms.

Notice that these end in cin, and many of them end in mycin. So, when you see either of these syllables, you know these are anti-infectives.

Anti-Infective Drugs

NCLEX Infective drugs

The following list highlights some possible side effects/adverse reactions from the use of anti-infectives (aminoglycosides):

  • Ototoxicity
  • Nephrotoxicity
  • Seizures
  • Blood dyscrasias
  • Hypotension
  • Rash

The following are nursing interventions you need to be aware of when working with clients using anti-infectives (aminoglycosides):

  • Obtain a history of allergies.
  • Monitor intake and output.
  • Monitor vital signs during intravenous infusion.
  • Maintain a patent IV site.
  • Monitor for therapeutic levels.
  • Monitor for signs of nephrotoxicity.
  • Monitor for signs of ototoxicity.
  • Teach the client to report any changes in urinary elimination.
  • Monitor peak and trough levels.


Understanding and Identifying the Various Drugs


Pharmacology Essentials: Benzodiazepines (Anticonvulsants/Antianxiety)

Focus topic: Pharmacology Essentials

These drugs are used for their antianxiety or anticonvulsant effects.

Notice that all these contain the syllable pam, pate, or lam.

Benzodiazepines(Anticonvulsants/Sedative/Antianxiety) Drugs

NCLEX Anticonvulsant drugs

The following list gives you some possible side effects and adverse reactions from the use of this classification of drugs:

  • Drowsiness
  • Lethargy
  • Ataxia
  • Depression
  • Restlessness
  • Slurred speech
  • Bradycardia
  • Hypotension
  • Diplopia
  • Nystagmus
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Incontinence
  • Urinary retention
  • Respiratory depression
  • Rash
  • Urticaria

The following are some nursing interventions to know when working with the client taking benzodiazepines:Monitor respirations.

  • Monitor liver function.
  • Monitor kidney function.
  • Monitor bone marrow function.
  • Monitor for signs of chemical abuse.

Pharmacology Essentials: Phenothiazines (antipsychotic/Antiemetic)

Focus topic: Pharmacology Essentials

These drugs are used as antiemetics or neuroleptics. These drugs are also used to treat psychosis in those clients with schizophrenia. Some phenothiazines, such as Phenergan (promethazine) and Compazine (prochlorperzine), are used to treat nausea and vomiting.


Notice that all these contain the syllable zine

Phenothiazines (Antipsychotic/Antiemetic) Drugs

NCLEX Antipsychotic drugs

The following list gives you some possible side effects and adverse reactions from the use of phenothiazines:

  • Extrapyramidal effects
  • Drowsiness
  • Sedation
  • Orthostatic hypotension
  • Dry mouth
  • Agranulocytosis
  • Photosensitivity
  • Neuroleptic malignant syndrome

The following are some nursing interventions to know when working with a client taking phenothiazines:

  • Protect the medication from light.
  • Do not mix the liquid forms of Prolixin (Fluphenazine HCL) with any beverage containing caffeine, tannates, or pectin due to physical incompatibility.
  • Monitor liver enzymes.
  • Monitor renal function.
  • Protect the client from overexposure to the sun.

Pharmacology Essentials: Glucocorticoids

Focus topic: Pharmacology Essentials

These drugs are used in the treatment of conditions requiring suppression of the immune system or to decrease inflammatory response. They are also used in Addison’s disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and immune disorders. These drugs have anti-inflammatory, anti-allergenic, and anti-stress effects. They are used for replacement therapy for adrenal insufficiency (Addison’s disease); as immunosuppressive drugs in post-transplant clients; and to reduce cerebral edema associated with head trauma, neurosurgery, and brain tumors.

Notice that all these contain sone or cort.

NCLEX Glucocorticoids

The following list gives you some possible side effects and adverse reactions from the use of this drug type:

  • Acne
  • Poor wound healing
  • Leukocytosis
  • Ecchymosis
  • Bruising
  • Petechiae
  • Depression
  • Flushing
  • Sweating
  • Mood changes (depression), insomnia, hypomania
  • Hypertension
  • Osteoporosis
  • Diarrhea
  • Hemorrhage


The following are nursing interventions used when working with a client taking gluco- corticoids:

  • Monitor glucose levels.
  • Weigh the client daily.
  • Monitor blood pressure.
  • Monitor for signs of infection.

Pharmacology Essentials: Antivirals

Focus topic: Pharmacology Essentials

These drugs are used for their antiviral properties. They inhibit viral growth by inhibiting an enzyme within the virus. Herpetic lesions respond to these drugs. Clients with acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) are often treated with this category of drugs either alone or in combination with other antiviral drugs. These drugs are also used to treat herpetic lesions (HSV-1, HSV-2), varicella infections (chickenpox), herpes zoster (shingles), herpes simplex (fever blisters), encephalitis, cytomegalovirus (CMV), and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).

Notice that all these drug names contain vir.

Antiviral Drugs

NCLEX Antiviral Drugs

The following list gives some side effects and adverse effects that are usually associated with this drug category:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Oliguria
  • Proteinuria
  • Vaginitis
  • Central nervous side effects (these are less common):.

 . Tremors
. Confusion
. Seizures
. Severe, sudden anemia

The following nursing interventions are used when working a client taking antivirals:

  • Tell the client to report a rash because this can indicate an allergic reaction.
  • Watch for signs of infection.
  • Monitor the creatinine level frequently.
  • Monitor liver profile.
  • Monitor bowel pattern before and during treatment.

Pharmacology Essentials: Cholesterol-Lowering Agents

Focus topic: Pharmacology Essentials

This drug type is used to help the client lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels and to decrease the potential for cardiovascular disease. Notice that all these contain the syllable vastatin. It should be noted that many advertisements call these “statin” drugs. These drugs should not be confused with the statin drugs used for their antifungal effects. These can include nystatin (trade name Mycostatin or Nilstat). Table 1.8 lists some of the cholesterol-lowering agents.

Cholesterol-Lowering Drugs

NCLEX Cholesterol Lowering Drugs


Here is a list of side effects and adverse reactions that could occur with the use of cholesterol-lowering agents:

  • Rash
  • Alopecia
  • Dyspepsia
  • Liver dysfunction
  • Muscle weakness (myalgia)
  •  Headache


The following nursing interventions are used when working with a client taking cholesterol-lowering agents:

  • Include a diet low in cholesterol and fat in therapy.
  • Monitor cholesterol levels.
  • Monitor liver profile.
  • Monitor renal function.
  • Monitor for muscle pain and weakness.

Pharmacology Essentials: Angiotensin Receptor Blockers

Focus topic: Pharmacology Essentials

These drugs block vasoconstrictor- and aldosterone-secreting angiotensin II. They are used to treat primary or secondary hypertension and are an excellent choice for clients who complain of the coughing associated with ACE inhibitors. Notice that all these contain sartan.

Angiotensin Receptor Blockers

NCLEX Receptor Blockers

The following list gives some side effects and adverse effects that accompany the use of angiotensin receptor blockers:

  • Dizziness
  • Insomnia
  • Depression
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Impotence
  • Muscle cramps
  • Neutropenia
  • Cough

The following nursing interventions are used when working with a client takingangiotensin receptor blocker agents:

  • Monitor blood pressure.
  • Monitor BUN.
  • Monitor creatinine.
  • Monitor electrolytes.
  • Tell the client to check edema in feet and legs daily.
  • Monitor hydration status.

Pharmacology Essentials: Histamine 2 Antagonists

Focus topic: Pharmacology Essentials

These drugs are used in the treatment of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), acid reflux, and gastric ulcers. They inhibit histamine 2 (H2) release in the gastric parietal cells, therefore inhibiting gastric acids.

Notice that all these contain the syllable tidine.

Histamine 2 Antagonist Drugs

NCLEX histamine 2

The following list gives some side effects and adverse effects associated with histamine 2 antagonists:

  • Confusion
  • Bradycardia/tachycardia
  • Diarrhea
  • Psychosis
  • Seizures
  • Agranulocytosis
  • Rash
  • Alopecia
  • Gynecomastia
  • Galactorrhea

Following are some nursing interventions when working with a client taking H2 antago- nists:

  • Monitor the blood urea nitrogen levels.
  • Administer the medication with meals.
  • If the client is taking the medication with antacids, make sure he takes antacids one hour before or after taking these drugs.
  • Cimetidine can be prescribed in one large dose at bedtime.
  • Sucralfate decreases the effects of histamine 2 receptor blockers.

Pharmacology Essentials: Proton Pump Inhibitors

Focus topic: Pharmacology Essentials

These drugs suppress gastric secretion by inhibiting the hydrogen/potassium ATPase enzyme system. They are used in the treatment of gastric ulcers, indigestion, and GERD.

Notice that all these drugs contain the syllable prazole and should be given prior to meals.

Proton Pump Inhibitors

NCLEX Inhibitors

The following list gives some side effects and adverse effects associated with proton pump inhibitors:

  • Headache
  • Insomnia
  • Diarrhea
  • Flatulence
  • Rash
  • Hyperglycemia

Some nursing interventions to use when working with a client taking proton pump inhibitors are as follows:

  • Do not crush pantoprazole (Protonix). Use a filter when administering IV panto- prazole.
  • Advise the client to take proton pum inhibitors before meals for best absorption.
  • Monitor liver function.

Pharmacology Essentials: Anticoagulants

Focus topic: Pharmacology Essentials

These drugs are used in the treatment of thrombolytic disease. These drugs are used to treat pulmonary emboli, myocardial infarction, and deep-vein thrombosis; after coronary artery bypass surgery; and for other conditions requiring anticoagulation.

Notice that all these drugs contain the syllable parin and are heparin derivatives. The client should have a PTT check to evaluate the bleeding time when giving heparin. The antidote for heparin is protamine sulfate.

Anticoagulant Drugs

NCLEX Anticoagulants

The following list gives side effects and adverse effects of heparin derivatives:

  • Fever
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomatitis
  • Bleeding
  • Hematuria
  • Dermatitis
  • Alopecia
  • Pruritus

Nursing interventions to use in caring for a client taking an anticoagulant (heparin derivative) include the following:

  • Blood studies (hematocrit and occult blood in stool) should be checked every three months.
  • Monitor PTT often for heparin (therapeutic levels are 1.5–2.0 times the control). There is no specific bleeding time done for enoxaparin (Lovenox); however, the platelet levels should be checked for thrombocytopenia.
  • Monitor platelet count.
  • Monitor for signs of bleeding.
  • Monitor for signs of infection.

Pharmacology Essentials: More Drug Identification Helpers

Focus topic: Pharmacology Essentials

These are some of the commonly given medications that allow you to utilize the testing technique of commonalities. Looking at these similarities will help you manage the knowledge needed to pass the NCLEX and better care for your clients.

Here are some other clues that can help you in identifying drug types:

  • Caine = anesthetics (Lidocaine)
  • Mab = monoclonal antibodies (Palivazumab)
  • Ceph or cef = cephalosporins (Cefatazime)
  • Cillin = penicillins (Ampicillin)
  • Cycline = tetracycline (Tetracycline)
  • Stigmine = cholinergics (Phyostigmine)
  • Phylline = bronchodilators (Aminophylline)
  • Cal = calciums (Calcimar)
  • Done = opioids (Methodone)


Pharmacology Essentials: Herbals

Focus topic: Pharmacology Essentials

Herbals are not considered by some to be medications. They are not regulated by the FDA and can be obtained without a prescription. They do, however, have medicinal properties. Herbals are included on the NCLEX in the category of pharmacology. The list that follows includes some common herbals used by clients as well as some associ- ated nursing precautions:

  • Feverfew: This is used to prevent and treat migraines, arthritis, and fever. This herbal should not be taken with Coumadin, aspirin, NSAIDs, thrombolytics, or antiplatelet medications because it will prolong the bleeding time.
  • Ginseng: This is used as an anti-inflammatory. It has estrogen effects, enhances the immune system, and improves mental and physical abilities. This herbal decreases the effects of anticoagulants and NSAIDs. It also should not be taken by clients taking corticosteroids because the combination of these two can result in extremely high levels of corticosteroids. High doses cause liver problems. A client with hypertension and bipolar disorder should be cautioned regarding the use of ginseng because this herbal can interfere with medications used to treat these disorders.
  • Ginkgo: This improves memory and can be used to treat depression. It also improves peripheral circulation. Ginkgo should not be taken with MAO inhibitors, anticoagulants, or antiplatelets. It increases the bleeding time in clients taking NSAIDs, cephalosporins, and valproic acid. Clients with seizure disorders should not take ginkgo because it can exacerbate seizure activity.
  • Echinacea: This is used to treat colds, fevers, and urinary tract infections. This herbal can interfere with immunosuppressive agents, methotrexate, and ketoconi- zole.
  • Kava-kava: This herb is used to treat insomnia and mild muscle aches and pains. It increases the effects of central nervous system (CNS) suppressants and decreases the effects of levodopa. It can also increase the effect of MAOIs and cause liver damage.
  • St. John’s Wort: This is used to treat mild to moderate depression. This herbal increases adverse CNS effects when used with alcohol or antidepressant medica- tions.
  • Ma Huang: This is used to treat asthma and hay fever, for weight loss, and to increase energy levels. It increases the effect of MAOIs, sympathomimetics, theophylline, and cardiac glycosides.

 Pharmacology Essentials: Drug Schedules

Focus topic: Pharmacology Essentials

It is important for the nurse to be aware of the drug schedules because several questions might be asked on the NCLEX exam regarding safety. The list that follows character- izes the various drug schedules:

  • Schedule I: Research use only (for example, LSD). These drugs are not medically safe to take and have a high potential for abuse.
  • Schedule II: Requires a written prescription for each refill. No telephone renewals are allowed (for example, narcotics, stimulants, and barbiturates).
  • Schedule III: Requires a new prescription after six months or five refills; it can be a telephone order (for example, codeine, steroids, and antidepressants).
  • Schedule IV: Requires a new prescription after six months (for example, benzodiazepines).
  • Schedule V: Dispensed as any other prescription or without prescription if state law allows (for example, antidiarrheals and antitussives).

Pharmacology Essentials: Pregnancy Categories for Drugs

Focus topic: Pharmacology Essentials

These drug categories might also be included on the NCLEX exam. It is important for the nurse to know which categories the pregnant client should avoid:

  • Category A: No risk to fetus.
  • Category B: Insufficient data to use in pregnancy.
  • Category C: Benefits of medication could outweigh the risks.
  • Category D: Risk to fetus exist, but the benefits of the medication could outweigh the probable risks.
  • Category X: Avoid use in pregnancy or in those who may become pregnant. Potential risks to the fetus outweigh the potential benefits.



2 thoughts on “NCLEX: Pharmacology Essentials

  1. Jennifer Pearson says:

    Overall this was a very helpful review. The information on Ginkgo might be better phrased “has been used to improve memory function…” vs the statement that it “improves memory.” This is based on the fact that research evidence overall does not support the hypothesis that it improves memory. See the Cochrane review.

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