Sunday, September 23, 2007

What's In a Name?

This is from When Naming a Drug, It is an Inexact Science
The name can make the difference between whether a drug becomes a blockbuster or a flop. The right name can give a drug cachet. The wrong name can lead to serious medical errors.

According to the Food and Drug Administration's Web site, an 8-year-old died after receiving methadone instead of methylphenidate. A 19-year-old man showed signs of potentially fatal complications after he was given clozapine instead of olanzapine. A 50-year-old woman was hospitalized after taking Flomax, used to treat an enlarged prostate, instead of Volmax, used to relieve bronchospasm.But what makes a good name?

"A lot of it is more art than science," said William Trombetta, professor of pharmaceutical marketing at St. Joseph's University in Philadelphia. "There are certain letters that express power and control, like Z, M or P. Other letters, like S, are more passive. Depending on what the drug does, you want to give the name certain features."
Want to sound high-tech? Go for lots of Z's and X's, such as Xanax, Xalatan, Zyban and Zostrix.
Want to sound poetic? Try Lyrica, Truvada and Femara.
Want to suggest what it does? Flonase is an allergy medicine that aims to stop nasal flow. Lunesta, a sleeping drug, implies luna, or moon -- a full night's sleep. Humulin is shorthand for "human insulin," a new therapeutic treatment for diabetics that follows decades of animal insulin. Lipitor, a cholesterol fighter that is the world's best-selling drug, suggests "lipids" or fats.


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