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What's in a name?

13
Dec
2010
 

By Miranda

Who makes up the brand names of medical drugs and how do they do it?

I've been looking at some of these brand names recently and I've begun to wonder how they are devised. What are the criteria? Are they supposed to sound scientific and efficacious to the doctors who prescribe them, or are the names crafted to appeal to the people who actually take them?

And what, in either case, would make the name appealing? The names of the chemicals themselves usually reflect the class of drug. If you look at the statins for cholesterol-lowering, you can see lots of 'lipi' or 'lipo' prefixes and several ending in 'or'. Of course, the suffix 'or' (or 'er') gives us the notion of action and doing so we're induced to think that this drug will be working for us. I assume the 'lipi/o' bit refers to lipids and this would ring the right bells with the medical fraternity.

I wonder who are the namesmiths, toiling away, trawling dusty tomes and the internet for connections and prompts which will make a new name appealing. And then there's the sound of the names - are some sounds more convincing or comfortable than others. I noticed an unusual proportion of 'z' sounds - is this for a hint of the new and different, or just so that the newly coined name doesn't replicate an existing one.

My favourite bit of naming (wandering a little way from the drugs) is of the moon of the dwarf planet Eris. The discoverers of Eris wanted to call it Xena, after the character played by Lucy Lawless in the eponymous TV series. They weren't allowed to, Xena being fictional and not derived from ancient mythology (the convention for naming planets). So the planet became Eris and the moon was named for Eris's mythological daughter, Dysnomia.

And why do I love that. Because Dysnomia was the goddess of lawlessness.

Miranda

 

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4 Responses to

What's in a name?

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kragzy said:
December 13, 2010 at 11:31 AM

The naming of drugs is ALL about marketing. Big pharma companies have teams of marketing folks who do the 'creative' (i.e. invent names) and proposed names are tested out on sample groups to see which is the most convincing. Effective names must sound scientific or medical and be a little difficult to pronounce. Purchasers are more likely to be convinced (or taken in) by 'Benadryl' than by 'Itch Cream'!

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lamby said:
December 13, 2010 at 7:53 PM

But once we start to use something we often forget the name and call it "Itch Cream" or whatever.

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greenpeas said:
December 19, 2010 at 8:50 AM

Zantax by Glaxo...makes you wonder which planet they are imported from. Something Xena might take after a night of feasting

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December 19, 2010 at 3:45 PM

Way, way back in the early 60s, I was a student nurse, and we had to memorise quite a few of the sulpha drugs. I was quite proud of the fact that I could spell phthalylsulphthiazole!