After completing required nursing school, students must take the National Council Licensure Examination, or NCLEX, for RNs. The exam covers a variety of topics, but one section will discuss pharmacology, including administration of drugs, adverse effects and expected outcomes. This section contains 12 to 18 percent of the total number of questions, reports the National Council of State Boards of Nursing. To succeed in this section, you will need a thorough understanding of a number of medications.

Allergy, Asthma and Other Respiratory Drugs

These medications relieve seasonal and environment allergy symptoms and help open airways and improve breathing capabilities. Some of the allergy and asthma medications you will find on the test include fexofenadine, loratadine, beclomethasone and flunisolide. Other respiratory-related drugs might include albuterol, terbutaline and ipratropium.

Analgesics and Anti-inflammatory Medications

Analgesic medications help relieve pain. Drugs you might find on the exam include over-the-counter products such as aspirin and acetaminophen. Some of the prescription medications include tramadol, propoxyphene, codeine and morphine. Anti-inflammatory drugs help reduce swelling in joints and other areas of the body. The test may cover drugs such as ibuprofen, celecoxib, naproxen and oxaprozin.


You will need to know anticoagulant medications, drugs that thin the blood and reduce the risk of conditions such as heart attacks and strokes. Some of these medications include heparin and warfarin, lepirudin and urokinase.


Anticonvulsants help treat a number of conditions, including seizure disorders. Some anticonvulsants include gabapentin, lamotrigine, pregabalin and topiramate.


Drugs the help treat or prevent infection include antibiotics, antivirals and antifungals. Anti-infective medications you will find on the list include penicillin, amphotericin B, hydrozychloroquine, vancomycin, amoxicillin and azithromycin.


Doctors typically use antineoplastic drugs, also known as chemotherapy drugs, to treat cancers, tumors and other conditions. Some of these medications include altretamine, bexarotene, procarbazine and tamoxifen.

Cardiovascular Medications

Cardiovascular medications perform a number a functions including heart rate regulation and blood pressure control. Drugs you may see on the exam include terazosin HCL, nitroglycerin, procainamide, atorvastatin calcium and atenolol.


Dermatological drugs help treat or prevent skin diseases and conditions. On the exam you will need to know drugs such as biafine, hydroquinone, cetrimide and pimecrolimus.

Diabetic Medications

A number of medications help control blood sugar levels. Some of the diabetic drugs include insulin, metformin, glipizide and sitagliptin.

Gastrointestinal Medications

Gastrointestinal drugs help treat conditions such as heartburn, ulcers, stomach upset and irritable bowel. For the exam, you should know a variety of drugs such as calcium carbonate, dicyclomine, lactulose and kaolin.

Genitourinary Medications

Medications in the genitourinary class of drugs may help treat bladder or urinary conditions, as well as conditions of the reproductive system. Some of the medications you may see on the exam include tiopronin, dimethyl sulfoxide, tromethamine and neostigmine.

Hormones & Contraceptives

Some medications help balance hormone levels in men and women. Some of these medications include estrogen, estradial, progestin and testosterone gel. You should also know the contraceptive medications available. These include drugs such as ortho micronor, minastrin and nortrel.

Mental Health Drugs

The exam will include mental health medications. These drugs help treat conditions such as anxiety and depression. Drugs to know include buspirone, venlafaxine, fluoxetine, lithium and zalepion.

Ophthalmic and Otic Drugs

You should also know medications used to treat conditions of the eyes and ears. Some of these drugs include ketorolac tromethamine, brimonidine, cosopt and rocephin.

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