what’s in a name, or why i shouldn’t write stream of consciousness


Source: Drugs@FDA

When I was working in pharmaceutical marketing, I always laughed about drug names, which I still believe are generated by throwing anywhere from 5 to 14 darts on a consonant dart board and then adding vowels where it seems appropriate to form a new fake-word-slash-drug-name.

I learned today that the FDA’s website contains a searchable, sortable list of all drug name filings. Sure enough, looking through the site confirms that most drug names are terrible. They don’t describe the product, and they sound almost as arcane as the scientific names of the active ingredient from which they’re based.

For example, Novartis received approval on Monday of a drug called Tekturna which, according to the impossibly difficult-to-read label information, is some kind of renin inhibitor. The active ingredient is Aliskiren, which sounds kind of like either a girl I had a crush on in middle school, or a German lager that’s rich in hops. I have no idea what renin is or why we want to inhibit it, but it’s one syllable away from a Russian revolutionary, and clearly communism is not the answer, so let’s go ahead and block it.

I prefer the non-FDA approved names like HeadOn. Got a headache? Go for HeadOn. Simple and to the point. If I could rename Viagra, I’d call it PenisUp. Then when the revenue started to flatline, I’d add an exclamation point to the name and introduce “PenisUp! Extreme.” Also this reminds me that I think websites could have an amusing extreme spinoff division. Amazon Extreme! for example, would be like normal Amazon but obviously much more extreme. I think that just means it would get a bike rack, but I’m not sure.

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