An iconic language for the Visualization of Concepts in Medicine

Lesson 5 : Icons for treatments and drugs


In VCM, drugs are represented by the icons of the disorders they treat, with an additional green cross as a top-right exponent, for example:

Cardiac drugs
Cardiotonics (drugs for heart failure)
Drug for acne
Anti-viral agents
Anti-diarrheal agents

To distinguish between therapeutic classes, the green cross can be replaced with a tube (for topical treatment), a tablet (for systematic treatment by the oral route) or a syringe (for systematic injectable treatment) as appropriate, for example:

Oral anti-diabetics
Local anti-asthmatics
Systemic anti-asthmatics

Some drugs do not treat current disease, but rather reduce risks, for example:

Oral contraceptives
Preventive vaccines

Drug-related concepts

Drug-related concepts are represented by a green square with a white pictogram inside. The square can be replaced the “increase” or “decrease” shapes:

High dose
Low dose
Dose increase
Dose decrease
Weaning / progressive decrease of the dose
Dose schedule
Discontinuation of drug treatment

Events related to drug intake are represented by a red square (like disorders):


Like disorders, these events can be represented in a orange square to indicate a risk:

Risk of overdose

Non-drug treatments

Non-drug treatments are represented in the same was as drug treatments, but with different top-right pictograms:

Top-right pictogramsExamples
Diet for diabetes
Physical activity
Medical procedure
Radiotherapy for ear-nose-throat cancer
Cardiac implant
Kidney transplant


Drug-drug interactions can by represenetd on “Mister VCM”. They can be combined with contraindications (like below), or represented on a separate “Mister VCM”.

Contraindications and interactions


Some remarks:

  • Drugs expressed as INN or brand names, such as digoxin, are replaced by thetherapeutic class(es) they belong to, for example cardioactive agents.
  • When, for a given anatomico-functional location, there are both a contraindication and a drug interaction on “Mister VCM”, the contraindication is represented. In the previous example, this was the case for the respiratory location: “pulmonary infectious disease” and “anti-asthmatics” are both represented by the “respiratory disorder” icon. A patient taking anti-asthmatics suffers from a pulmonary disorder.

Exercise 1

What do the following icons mean?

(1) Answer: Submit


(2) Answer: Submit


(3) Answer: Submit


(4) Answer: Submit


(5) Answer: Submit


(6) Answer: Submit


(7) Answer: Submit


(8) Answer: Submit  

(9) Answer: Submit  

(10) Answer: Submit


Exercise 2

The following “Mister VCM” represents contraindications and drug interactions for Hypericum:

Contraindications and interactions


Reply to the following clinical cases using the “Mister VCM” above:

Case #1: Mrs. X is 28 years old, she is diabetic (type I) and takes both insulin and oral contraceptive daily. She suffers from mild depression due to professional problems. Can you prescribe Hypericum?

(11-a) Yes Wrong answer!

(11-b) No Right answer!


Case #2: Mr Y 59. He suffers from mild renal insufficiency, gout treated by a uricosuric, and glaucoma treated with a beta-blocking agent. Can you prescribe Hypericum?

(12-a) Yes Right answer!

(12-b) No Wrong answer!


Case #3: Ms. Z is 48 years old. She suffers from recurrent depressive symptoms, usually treated with isocarboxazid (MAOI, monoamine oxidase inhibitors). Can she take Hypericum in addition, when she is going through difficult phases?

(13-a) Yes Right answer!

(13-b) No Wrong answer!