Wednesday, January 16, 2013

I'd like to buy a vowel, please.

I consider myself to be a fairly literate person.  In addition to this, having been reading since the age of 4 or so, I'm pretty adept at sounding out unfamiliar words.

That's why I can't do anything but roll my eyes at some of the new drug names I've recently come across.

Qsymia. Qnasl. Myrbetriq. Bydureon. Xgeva.

Really?  This is the best they can come up with? Pharmaceutical companies have some of the biggest marketing budgets around, with some companies spending over $1 billion a year in advertising.  You'd think they could come up with some better names.  Here's the thing.  If I can't pronounce it, I probably can't spell it.  If I can't spell it, I can't write it.  If I can't write it, I can't prescribe it.  You get the picture.

I understand that pharmaceutical companies are under constraints when it comes to naming a new drug.  First of all, it can't be similar to any existing drug on the market, in order to avoid confusion.  For example, these days Celebrex would likely not have been an approved name by the FDA, as it is way too similar to Celexa.  Likewise for Claritin and Coumadin.

A drug also can't have a name that implies any sort of superiority in treating a condition.  For example, a new diabetes medication named "Gluco-Lo" is not going to  pass muster.

Apparently, we're left with unpronouncable names that look like they were pulled from a game of Boggle gone awry.

Personally, I wish we would just use generic names for everything.  Is Myrbetriq easier to pronounce/remember that mirabegron, the generic name?  Is Qnasl easier than beclamethasone nasal?  If we just stuck to generic names, there would be a lot less confusion on the part of both doctors and patients.