Wednesday, October 12, 2011

How to "N"AME a Drug (if you are a pharmaceutical company)

Believe it or not, drug companies spend millions of dollars in research to give drugs their names.  Here we are talking about Trade or Brand names, not generic.  For example, a popular blood pressure medicine is Lisnopril.  It is in the family of drugs called an ACE Inhibitor, which helps to dilate the blood vessels, thus reducing the stress on the vessels from the force of the heart pumping. Lisinopril is the generic name, while it also goes by two other "Trade" names, in the US.  They are Prinivil and Zestril.
How do the drug companies come up with these new names? Do they have any other meanings?  Is there a psychological component?  Yes to all of the above.
In more recent years many drugs have been named with "high tech" sounding names.  If a company includes less popular letters, like Z, X, V, or Y, you may think that this will be a very important drug.  The mind can also play tricks on you.  The harder the name is to pronounce the more effective it must be. It can speak of power and strong purpose.  Xanax and Zyban are not typical sounding names, but they do seem powerful and effective, due to the strong lettering.
A good example of a drug with multiple branding implications is Viagra.  The Vi makes it stand out and sound powerful.  Also standing for Vitality and Vigor. Viagra also sounds like Niagara (Falls), indicating mighty flow.
Cultural implications must also be taken into choosing a good name.  In South America it is known as Eviva.  It sounds like Revive and also brings to mind Eve (of Adam and Eve). To me this is a much better name than the alternative that they were thinking of naming it, Tarzia, having to do with feeling like Tarzan while you are using it.  The middle east seams to go straight to the point with the name Erecto.
If you are trying to go after a certain gender, maybe you want to make the drug sound more calming, smooth or even poetic.  Take Femara for example. It rolls of the tongue and has a Female sounding name.  This drug is used to treat Breast Cancer.  Or Truvada, which just seems to slip out, making you feel comfortable and peaceful.  This drug is used as a prophylaxis for HIV in men.  Better sounding than Truhomo, or gayvada.
When naming a drug, as in the middle east version of Viagra, maybe you just want to get to the point and put the drugs purpose in the name.  Flonase  helps to decrease the flow of mucus in the nose.  Lunesta, derived from "Luna" which means sleep in Latin, is a well known sleep aid.
So as a drug company, there a many things to think about when naming a drug.  The names are never random and are always there for one purpose.  To make their drug stand out so that more people will buy them.
Lets say you are tasked with naming the new trade name for the latest drug that will help avoid a newly discovered problem in 2020.  People are being born with 3 eyes and your drug will stop this from happening.  What will you name it?

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