What’s in a name? When it comes to prescription drugs, many, experts say

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How do prescription drugs get their brand names? It’s a process, experts say. Photo by Sponge/Wikimedia Commons

January 21 (UPI) — The Food and Drug Administration announced Wednesday that it has approved a drug called Quviviq for the treatment of insomnia, a disorder that causes trouble sleeping.

The brand name of this drug, which is expected to hit the market in the United States in May if it meets FDA standards for controlled substances, may seem like a mouthful.

However, there is most likely a lot of thought and money behind Quviviq.

“The manufacturer says it improves sleep with less drowsiness, so they may think ‘viviq’ connotes vital, lively, or less groggy,” said Arlene Teck, creative director, name development at Ixxeo Healthcare in Rockaway, NJ. , a pharmaceutical brand strategy consulting firm. UPI in a telephone interview.

“The high pitch of the last syllable can evoke a sense of alertness,” Teck said, adding that neither she nor Ixxeo had worked on the brand.

Although drug brand names seen in TV commercials, magazine ads and elsewhere may seem bizarre, there’s usually a method behind the apparent madness, experts said.

“Companies spend a lot of time trying to get the right names to achieve their marketing goals,” Dr. G. Caleb Alexander, an epidemiologist whose research focuses on drug use and safety, told UPI by phone. on prescription.

“The name shapes product perception, but it’s only part of a broad, thorough and coordinated marketing strategy,” said Alexander, a professor at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

Here is an overview of the process behind the brand naming of prescription drugs.

Drug manufacturers develop a chemical name for a new drug based on a set of rules established by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry and the United States Adopted Name Council.

This latter group is operated under the auspices of the American Medical Association, the American Pharmaceutical Association and the US Pharmacopeial Convention, and any new name must refer to the underlying ingredients and mechanism of action of a drug. , according to the board.

The chemical or generic name must also receive authorization from the World Health Organization’s International Nonproprietary Name program.

Bring in the consultants

Once the chemical name has been cleared for use and the drug has entered clinical trials, manufacturers will engage consultants such as Ixxeo Healthcare, with the goal of developing a brand name that allows the product to be marketed effectively, without violate FDA guidelines.

New drugs go through three stages of clinical trials, and the process of creating brand names usually begins right at the start of phase 2 trials, Teck said.

“By then, we’re pretty sure it’ll be a keeper and won’t die along the way” in the research and development process, she said.

According to Tina Goldstone, director of marketing at Interbrand, a New York-based marketing consultancy, consultants typically work with clients to understand the drug, its category and class, and how it works or how it works.

From a potential list of hundreds of names, the best options are selected and “pre-selected” against currently available databases of names and legal terms, as well as world languages ​​to avoid possible conflicts, she said.

A famous example occurred in the 1960s, when Vicks marketed its cough drops in Germany, not realizing that the letter “v” was pronounced like the English letter “f” in German.

As a result, the name Vicks read like a vulgar slang term for Germans.

Beware of existing products

It’s also important for new drug brands to make sure their names aren’t too close to those of existing products, Teck and Goldstone said.

In addition to causing potential confusion for doctors and consumers, drugs with similar names could increase the risk of medication errors or incorrectly prescribed drugs, according to Teck.

This has become an even bigger issue in recent years as prescribing has become high-tech, with prescribers and pharmacists often using software systems or devices with drop-down menus, she said.

About 1.5 million people in the United States suffer health complications or even death each year from improperly prescribed medications, the Institute of Medicine estimates.

An analysis published in 2020 by the journal BMJ Quality and Safety found that 27 drug brand names used in the United States were identical to those of 38 products in other countries with different active ingredients.

“How a drug is named can have big implications for the safe use of a drug,” said Johns Hopkins’ Alexander.

Doctors and pharmacists are usually trained to learn the chemical names of drugs because brand names differ from country to country and often become unnecessary when generic forms hit the market, he said.

FDA limits

The FDA’s 42-page drug naming guidelines are publicly available.

In addition to ensuring that the brands do not create possible consumer sources for prescribers, pharmacists and the public, the names cannot refer to the drug’s active ingredients or exaggerate their effectiveness or benefits, Teck said. Ixxeo.

According to the agency, up to a third of all drug names submitted for FDA approval are rejected.

“The attributes of the compound can influence the name — if it’s a potent, high-potency product, one might want to go for a potent name,” Interbrand’s Goldstone said.

However, “the actual name of the compound or generic will not influence the name because a [brand] a name too close to the name of the compound would be rejected by regulatory authorities,” she said.

What a drug is and what it does – its mechanism of action – will most likely appear in the name, particularly if it is a first-class drug or a drug that works differently than those already on the market, Teck mentioned.

Additionally, names should also be easy to remember and pronounce, Teck said.

At her agency, potential names are spoken, sung, shouted and even spoken by people “holding their noses”, she said.

“We try to imagine someone with a cold, or these days wearing a face mask, walking up to the pharmacy counter and saying the name of the medicine,” Teck said.

At the same time, with direct-to-consumer advertising of prescription drugs — the United States is one of the few countries in the world that allows it, although it is regulated by the FDA — the name brand name of a drug can also affect its “marketability”. “, according to Goldstone.

An example of a drug brand name that lends itself well to marketing is the erectile dysfunction drug Viagra, a moniker designed to evoke vitality, virility and vigor, experts said.

More recently, Comirnaty, the brand name for Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine, “represents a combination of the terms COVID-19, mRNA, community, and immunity,” according to the makers and the Miami-based Brand Institute, which helped in the naming process.

Often these names are tested with groups of doctors, pharmacists and consumers to make sure they resonate with all three, Goldstone said.

However, given FDA restrictions, the extent to which their feedback ultimately influences the final brand choice is often limited, Ixxeo’s Teck said.

“This is not an area of ​​pharmaceutical product development that most consumers are aware of,” Johns Hopkins’ Alexander said.

“Yes, there’s an interest in having something that’s easy to remember, fairly easy to pronounce, and sticky, and the stickier the better, but those are just some of the considerations involved” , did he declare.

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