• Written By Ankita Sahay
  • Last Modified 21-06-2023

Chemicals in Medicines: Introduction, Uses


Chemicals in Medicines: One of Chemistry’s most significant contributions is in the field of medicine. Chemicals are used to create medicines. Chemical analysis and the synthesis of novel chemicals are used to create new medications. This topic is so wide that it has spawned a new branch of chemistry known as ‘Medicinal Chemistry’ of ‘ Chemicals in Medicines’.

Medicinal chemistry is a branch of chemistry concerned with the design, analysis, development, and synthesis of drugs as medicine. Medicines are chemical compounds that help living creatures in the treatment of diseases or the relief of suffering. This discipline necessitates knowledge in synthetic organic chemistry, pharmacology, and biological sciences. Medicines include numerous compounds. Let’s study everything there is to know about Chemicals in Medicines in this post. Scroll down to find more.

Introduction to Chemicals in Medicines

Drugs are chemical compounds of low molecular masses \(({\rm{around}}\,{\rm{150}}\,{\rm{to}}\,{\rm{500 u}})\) that interact with macromolecular targets and produce suitable biological responses. When drugs are taken in the prescribed manner to cure, prevent or diagnose a particular disease or ailment, it is known as medicine. However, it can become poisonous if consumed in higher doses than recommended. Chemicals are modified to create antiseptic and disinfectant drugs also.

Introduction to Chemicals in Medicines

The term ‘chemotherapy’ is used for the chemicals that are used for therapeutic effects. Research is constantly intensifying our understanding of medicinal Chemistry and leading to discoveries in this field. Based on the effects of medicines on biological systems, they are divided into different classes: antacids, antihistamines, analgesics, antiseptics, etc.

What Are Chemicals in Medicines?

What are Chemicals in Medicines

Drugs are chemical substances of low molecular masses. They produce a biological response by interacting with macromolecular targets. When the biological response of these drugs is therapeutic and desirable, these chemicals are known as medicines and are used in the field of medicines that helped doctors cure many diseases and save lives to a great extent. That has successfully controlled the mortality rate and helped us to live a healthy and quality life as a boon!

Chemicals in Medicines

The physicochemical properties of drugs differ according to their composition and need. Based on the chemical constituency, biological responses, and pharmacological effects, medicines are classified into various classes. Let us discuss them in detail:

1. Antacids


In our stomach, hydrochloric acid is present that helps in digestion and also fights against stomach infection. But when this acid level increases we start feeling uneasiness, stomach ache, and in severe conditions gastric ulcers also. To cure this, we need ‘antacids’. The chemical substances which neutralize the presence of excess acids in the stomach as gastric juices and give us relief from acidity problems are known as antacids.

Examples: Milk of Magnesia \({\rm{(Mg}}\,{{\rm{(OH)}}_2})\)

Sodium bicarbonate \(({\rm{NaHC}}{{\rm{O}}_3})\)


Sodium bicarbonate

2. Antihistamines

Most of the allergic symptoms and diseases are cured by ‘antihistamines’. They are most commonly used by people who are allergic to pollen and other allergens. Some of the common antihistamine medicines like cetirizine, brompheniramine (Dimetapp), and Seldane, pheniramine maleate (avil), etc.


3. Tranquillizers and Analgesics

Tranquillizers and Analgesics

Transmission of messages from nerve to receptor is facilitated by neurologically active medicines. They are of two types: Tranquilizers and Analgesics.

  1. Tranquillizers have a relaxing effect and relieve both the physical and psychological effects of anxiety, stress, etc. and help the patients to feel relaxed and calm. The drugs are recommended for short- and medium-term use as they are a component of sleeping pills. They check the noradrenaline (neurotransmitter) level that plays an important role in mood changes. If the level of noradrenaline is low, then the person suffers from depression. To cure such problems, antidepressant medicines are required. Examples of some tranquillizers are Pentobarbital, Xanax (Alprazolam), Limbitrol (Chlordiazepoxide), Valium (Diazepam), etc.
  2. Analgesics are medicines that help us to get rid of the pain. They are also known as pain killers. They are divided into two classes:
  3. Non-narcotic analgesics – Antipyretics are medicines that override the secretion of prostaglandin in the hypothalamus to reduce fever by lowering body temperature. The most famous examples of this class of medicines are aspirin and paracetamol. Aspirin is chemically known as acetylsalicylic acid. It is used to reduce pain, fever, or inflammation. Paracetamol is also used to treat moderate pain, body aches, and fever. They are non-narcotic analgesics, i.e. they are non-addictive.
Non-narcotic analgesics

4. Narcotic Analgesics – Narcotic analgesics produce desired pharmacological effects like they reduce fever and induce sleep by interacting with specific opiate receptors. Morphine narcotics (obtained from the opium poppy) are mostly used to get relief from postoperative pain, cardiac pain, and labour pain during childbirth, severe stage of cancer, and many more.

4. Antimicrobials


Antimicrobials are a group of medicines that retards the growth of disease-causing microorganisms like bacteria, fungi, viruses, etc. For example, antibiotics are used against bacteria, antivirals against viruses, and antifungals against fungi.

5. Antibiotics

Antibiotics being less toxic for humans and animals are used as medicines to treat bacterial infections. Now, antibiotics refer to a substance produced wholly or partially by chemical synthesis which inhibits the growth or destroys the pathogens.

The development of antibiotics was started by Paul Ehrlich, a German bacteriologist, who investigated medicine arsphenamine (arsenic-based structure), well-known as salvarsan for the treatment of syphilis but they are toxic to human beings. The real revolution in the field of antibiotics was brought by the discovery of Penicillin from fungus by Alexander Fleming in \(1929.\)

6. Antiseptics and Disinfectants

Antiseptics are the chemicals that prevent the growth or kill the microorganisms without harming the living tissues. They can be applied to wounds, cuts, and infected skin surfaces, etc. They are also used in deodorants, mouthwashes, and mouth fresheners to reduce unpleasant odours caused by bacterial decomposition in the body.

The basic difference between antiseptics and disinfectants is that an antiseptic is applied to the living cells, while disinfectants are applied to non-living surfaces to kill germs. A commonly used antiseptic is Dettol; it is a mixture of chloroxylenol and terpineol. Chlorine and phenol solutions are known as disinfectants.

Antiseptics and Disinfectants

Chemicals in Medicines Project Introduction

Chemicals in Medicines Project Introduction

Medicinal chemistry is an interface of organic chemistry, inorganic, chemistry, physical chemistry, computational chemistry along with biochemistry, pharmacology, molecular biology, toxicology, and many more fields of science and technology. The entire project of drug/medicine discovery involves the following stages:

  1. Discovery – The first step of drug discovery is the identification of novel active chemical compounds ‘hits’ by repeated chemical and biological analysis.
  2. Path of Hit to Lead and Lead Optimization – Hit to lead \({\rm{(}}{{\rm{H}}_{\rm{2}}}{\rm{L)}}\) is a well-known stage in early drug discovery which is also called lead generation is a process where small molecule hits from a high throughput screen \({\rm{(HTS)}}\)are studied, evaluated, and undergo all possible optimization to identify the promising lead compounds. In short, the basic purpose of the hit-to-lead process is to improve the newly discovered chemical compound’s potency, selectivity, and physicochemical properties for further in vitro and in vivo testing.
  3. Process Chemistry and Development – In this step, a chemist turns the discovered compound into a commercial product that can be manufactured at a low and reasonable cost by developing synthetic routes that are safe, cost-effective, eco-friendly, and efficient.
  4. Synthetic and Structural Analysis – To study the efficiency and stability of drugs number of synthetic analyses are done other than traditional organic synthesis. Also, structural analysis is done mainly by computational chemistry before the actual synthesis of ligands to prevent unnecessary wastage of resources.

Toxic Chemicals in Medicines

Toxic Chemicals in Medicines

Chemicals in Medicines Summary

Medicine is a chemical compound used to cure diseases or relieve pain. Medicines are classified as traditional medicines and modern medicines. Traditional medicines are derived from natural resources like plants and animals, while modern medicines are artificially synthesized in the laboratory. Medicines have undesirable side effects. Medicines should also be taken in a therapeutically prescribed manner to avoid any side effects.

FAQs on Chemicals in Medicines

Q.1: What chemicals are used in medicines?
Chemicals used in medicines are mostly organic compounds. Other chemicals such as mercury, arsenic, biphenyl-A, phthalates, etc. may have side effects.

Q.2: List of chemicals used in medicines.
The list of chemicals used in medicines is acetic anhydride, acetone, diethyl ether, benzyl chloride, toluene, hydrochloric acid, and many more organic compounds.

Q.3: Is chemistry important for medicine?
Medicines are entirely made up of chemicals. Hence, it is entirely a result of chemistry and its application. It is very important to have a sound understanding of chemistry for the study of medicines.

Q.4: Are the uses of drugs in medicine safe?
Yes, the uses of drugs in medicine are safe on the condition that they are prescribed by a medical doctor on diagnosis of a health issue or ailment.

Q.5: Can I take drugs as medicine?
Never consume any drugs as medicine unless they have been prescribed by a medical doctor to you for any medical of health condition.

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