When you first begin to study drugs, one thing hits you very, very quickly – namely, the sheer volume of drug names and categories that need to be committed to memory. In an earlier post, we reviewed some great techniques to memorize drug side effects. There, we learned how to categorize and compartmentalize our study – adding a defined structure that lets us study easier, quicker and more efficiently.

We can do the same thing with medicine prefixes and suffixes. There are broad families of medicines which have either the same suffix, root or prefix. Even if we haven’t seen the medicine name before, we can infer what the medicine is used to treat and what mechanism of action it has. In fact, we can even infer what side effects and drug interactions the drug is likely to have.

Take ACE inhibitors, for example. ACE inhibitors have the common suffix –pril. Examples include captopril, ramipril and perindopril. As a group, ACE inhibitors are associated with a distinct range of side effects – a persistent, dry cough being the most prominent example. Becoming familiar with drug prefixes and suffixes, then, opens up an enormous opportunity not only to commit drug classes and members to memory but also side effects and drug interactions, too.

Below, we’ve tabulated many of the most commonly encountered medicine prefixes and suffixes; a great tool to aid your study of pharmacology.

prefix, root, suffix Drug examples Medicine category
-afil avanafil; sildenafil; tadalafil; vardenafil phosphodiesterase (PDE) inhibitor
-asone betamethasone; dexamethasone; diflorasone; fluticasone; mometasone corticosteroid
-bicin doxorubicin; epirubicin; idarubicin; valrubicin antineoplastic; cytotoxic agent
-bital butabarbital; butalbital; phenobarbital; secobarbital barbiturate (sedative)
-caine bupivacaine; lidocaine; mepivacaine; prilocaine; proparacaine local anesthetic
cef-, ceph- cefaclor; cefdinir; cefixime; cefprozil; cephalexin cephalosporin antibiotic
-cillin amoxicillin; ampicillin; dicloxacillin; nafcillin; oxacillin penicillin antibiotic
cort clocortolone; fludrocortisone; hydrocortisone corticosteroid
-cycline demeclocycline; doxycycline; minocycline; tetracycline tetracycline antibiotic
-dazole albendazole; mebendazole; metronidazole; tinidazole anthelmintic; antibiotic; antibacterial
-dipine amlodipine; felodipine; nifedipine; nimodipine; nisoldipine calcium channel blocker
-dronate alendronate; etidronate; ibandronate; risedronate bisphosphonate; bone resorption inhibitor
-eprazole esomeprazole; omeprazole; rabeprazole proton pump inhibitor (PPI)
-fenac bromfenac; diclofenac; nepafenac NSAID
-floxacin besifloxacin; ciprofloxacin; levofloxacin; moxifloxacin; ofloxacin quinolone antibiotic
-gliptin saxagliptin; sitagliptin; linagliptin antidiabetic; inhibitor of the DPP-4 enzyme
-glitazone pioglitazone; rosiglitazone; troglitazone antidiabetic; thiazolidinedione
-iramine brompheniramine; chlorpheniramine; pheniramine antihistamine
-lamide acetazolamide; brinzolamide; dorzolamide; methazolamide carbonic anhydrase inhibitor
-mab adalimumab; daclizumab; infliximab; omalizumab; trastuzumab monoclonal antibody
-mustine carmustine; estramustine; lomustine; bendamustine alkylating agent (antineoplastic)
-mycin azithromycin; clarithromycin; clindamycin; erythromycin antibiotic; antibacterial
-nacin darifenacin; solifenacin muscarinic antagonist (anticholinergic)
-nazole fluconazole; ketoconazole; miconazole; terconazole; tioconazole antifungal
-olol atenolol; metoprolol; nadolol; pindolol; propranolol; timolol beta blocker
-olone fluocinolone; fluorometholone; prednisolone; triamcinolone corticosteroid
-olone nandrolone; oxandrolone; oxymetholone anabolic steroid
-onide budesonide; ciclesonide; desonide; fluocinonide; halcinonide corticosteroid
-oprazole dexlansoprazole; lansoprazole; pantoprazole proton pump inhibitor (PPI)
parin; -parin dalteparin; enoxaparin; fondaparinux; heparin; tinzaparin antithrombotic; anticoagulant (blood thinner)
-phylline aminophylline; dyphylline; oxtriphylline; theophylline xanthine derivative (bronchodilator)
-pramine clomipramine; desipramine; imipramine; trimipramine tricyclic antidepressant (TCA)
pred; pred- loteprednol; prednicarbate; prednisolone; prednisone corticosteroid
-pril benazepril; captopril; enalapril; lisinopril; moexipril; ramipril ACE inhibitor
-profen fenoprofen; flurbiprofen; ibuprofen; ketoprofen NSAID
-ridone iloperidone; paliperidone; risperidone atypical antipsychotic
-sartan candesartan; irbesartan; losartan; olmesartan; valsartan angiotensin II receptor antagonist; ARB
-semide furosemide; torsemide loop diuretic (water pill)
-setron alosetron; dolasetron; granisetron; ondansetron; palonosetron serotonin 5-HT3 receptor antagonist
-setron dolasetron; granisetron; ondansetron; palonosetron antiemetic and antinauseant
-statin atorvastatin; lovastatin; pitavastatin; pravastatin; rosuvastatin; simvastatin HMG-CoA reductase inhibitor; statins
sulfa- sulfacetamide; sulfadiazine; sulfamethoxazole; sulfasalazine antibiotic; anti-infective; anti-inflammatory
-tadine cyproheptadine; desloratadine; loratadine; olopatadine antihistamine
-tadine amantadine; rimantadine antiviral; anti-influenza-A
-terol albuterol; arformoterol; formoterol; levalbuterol; salmeterol beta agonist; bronchodilator
-thiazide chlorothiazide; hydrochlorothiazide; methyclothiazide thiazide diuretic (water pill)
-tinib crizotinib; dasatinib; erlotinib; gefitinib; imatinib antineoplastic (kinase inhibitor)
-trel desogestrel; etonogestrel; levonorgestrel; norgestrel female hormone (progestin)
tretin-; tretin; -tretin acitretin; alitretinoin; isotretinoin; tretinoin retinoid; dermatologic agent; form of vitamin A
-triptan almotriptan; eletriptan; rizatriptan; sumatriptan; zolmitriptan antimigraine; selective 5-HT receptor agonist
-tyline amitriptyline; nortriptyline; protriptyline tricyclic antidepressant (TCA)
vir; -vir abacavir; efavirenz; enfuvirtide; nevirapine; ritonavir; tenofovir antiviral; anti-HIV
vir; -vir adefovir; entecavir; ribavirin (along with interferon) antiviral; anti-hepatitis
-vir acyclovir; famciclovir; penciclovir; valacyclovir antiviral; anti-herpes
-vir cidofovir; ganciclovir; valganciclovir antiviral; anti-CMV
-vir oseltamivir; zanamivir antiviral; anti-flu
-vudine lamivudine; stavudine; telbivudine; zidovudine antiviral; nucleoside analogues
-zepam clonazepam; diazepam; flurazepam; lorazepam; temazepam benzodiazepine
-zodone nefazodone, trazodone, vilazodone antidepressant
-zolam alprazolam; estazolam; midazolam; triazolam benzodiazepine
-zosin alfuzosin; doxazosin; prazosin; terazosin alpha blocker

Check back to our pharmacy blog soon for even more great tips and tricks on how to commit drugs, their side effects and drug interactions, to memory. Also, subscribe to our newsletter today (you can find the form above). Alternatively, you can register with PharmaFactz today to gain instant access to hundreds of quiz questions, flashcards, infographics, tutorials and guides and much more – helping you prepare for your next pharmacology exam.