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Front Page » May 13, 2014 » Opinion » Where do those drug names come from?
Published 222 days ago

Where do those drug names come from?


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By RICHARD SHAW
Sun Advocate publisher

It hasn't been that many years ago when the only real drug names most people knew were penicillin and aspirin. Then came Tylenol and Advil.

But when the laws changed and it became vogue, in fact absolutely essential that pharmaceutical companies began to advertise their drugs names to the public on television, suddenly we all started to hear these new names, words that have become part of our language.

Words like Paxil, Viagra, Lunesta and Prozac suddenly became a part of our vernacular along with many others. And it seems each week there are a couple of more that appear in advertisements that we are inundated with.

"Tell your doctor to consult with you on ______ so you can see if it will work for you," we are told constantly.

What brought this naming thing to a head for me was the other night I heard an advertisement for a new drug called Latuda.

Are they now delving into the names of old Carbon County coal camps to find monikers for these various kinds of remedies? Well after all the drug was developed for bi-polar depression which I have the feeling was some of the way it was living in those camps. There certainly were a lot of happy times in those camps, but also some bad ones during disasters and coal strikes.

But leaving the Latuda thing behind, how the heck to these companies come up with these names for these drugs?

Well first of all, the names we know drugs as aren't necessarily their real names. They are shortened or even completely different names based on a lot of things. First of course is that they need a common name so they can be discussed easier. For instance it is easier to talk about Paxil than it is paroxetine hydrochloride or Lunesta rather than eszopiclone. And those two actual names are easy compared to some of them.

So for marketing purposes names come from a slant that people will remember more than actuality of what the drug is. Some of the drug names however look like someone must have picked the letters of the alphabet our of a hat full of too many consonants and not enough vowels. You know something like Amlod, a blood pressure medication.

But there is also another good reason. People must be able to distinguish between the drugs easily. There is actually a law that tells drug companies they must come up with names that do this. That is so they don't get mixed up. There are cases where the official name of a drug is so close to the name of another drug that it could cause real confusion. And in some cases people have died or become ill because of the misunderstanding.

For marketing purposes, pharmaceutical companies always try to come up with things we as consumers remember, so we will inform out doctor about what we saw in an advertisement.

According to a story in the Indianapolis Star it usually costs a company between $200,000 and $500,000 to come up with the right name for a drug. Companies like to use power letters in their drug names, hence lots of Z's and X's as well as bunches of P's as well.

Seems a lot of money to just brand a drug, but according to Russell there are over 30,000 prescription drugs trademarked in the United States alone, not to mention Europe where there are five times as many.

And some drugs have been given adopted names that actually relate somewhat to what they do.

Know this I looked through the prescriptions my doctor has given me. Being now a senior I wear my drugs like a badge of honor. The drugs I take are pretty common because they relate that most proverbial ailment men face, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

So I looked at my list to see if they really did tell me what they accomplish by their name. None did except Fenofibrate, which makes me think of the times that I get really upset, so I do kind of vibrate. Just ask anyone around me for any length of time.

When I was a teenager people my age talked about cars and girls. When I was in my 30's we talked about work and home ownership. When I was in my 50's we talked about our grand kids. Now past 60 I measure my life against others by the kinds of drugs we take (or don't take). I feel pretty proud that I only take a few; I have friends that seem to take dozens of different pills per day, sometimes a number of them a day.

But it all has to make you wonder. Names I mean. You know the Latuda thing.

I wonder when they will come out with a drug for making us all the same called Standardville? And what about a diet drug called Consumers? Then there might be an antidepressant called Peerless. Or how about a drug that will make you feel like a king, Royal. Or how about one that makes you feel like you have associates that support you (Mutual)? Or one to cure the fear of cats (Panther).

Okay I know this is ridiculous, but who knew only 40 years ago that we would have a computer company that was named after a fruit or that cars would be named after a square object (Nissan's Cube)? And who thought some of the worlds biggest companies would have names like Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook and, most funny of all, Twitter, where they make money while their customers Tweet the day away?

It seems no name is too far fetched anymore.

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May 13, 2014
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