Medical Definition of Prodrug

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Prodrug: A precursor (forerunner) of a drug. A prodrug must undergo chemical conversion by metabolic processes before becoming an active pharmacological agent. For example, sulfasalazine is a prodrug. It is not active in its ingested form. It has to be broken down by bacteria in the colon into two products -- 5-aminosalicylic acid (5ASA) and sulfapyridine -- before becoming active as a drug.

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Last Editorial Review: 1/25/2017

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