General Question

ben's avatar

Why do pharmaceutical drugs have two unique, ridiculous, made-up names?

Asked by ben (8518points) August 21st, 2008

For example: ABILIFY(aripiprazole), Lunesta (eszopiclone), etc. It makes sense that they make up the ridiculous marketing name. But the seconds names don’t seem like chemicals, they just look like more absurd, obscure, made-up names. Am I missing something?

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10 Answers

Randy's avatar

I think it’s to confuse us normies. We didn’t go through pharmacy school so we have to suffer pronouncing those absurd names.

shilolo's avatar

To make it worse, some drugs have 3 or even 4 names. Take HIV drugs for example. AZT was the very first drug approved for HIV treatment. It is known as AZT (azidothymidine), zidovudine and retrovir.

Now to answer your question. The generic name is often chosen to reflect the underlying chemical structure of the very first drug in the class, but this in not always the case. For AZT, this nomenclature works, since it is a thymidine analog, thus, azido thymidine. However, for other drugs, the generic name is made up, as is the brand name. But, drug companies do try to have the generic name reflect something about how the drug was identified, where it came from or its structure.

Once the first drug is named within a class, any new drug related to that is given a similar generic name. So, within a class of antibiotics knowns as the cephalosporins, there are a number of drugs with similar sounding generic names, but different brand names.

Bottom line, they aren’t trying to mess with you.

xxporkxsodaxx's avatar

I always thought Cialis was what that man said to his doubting wife after he invented it;

See Alice, See! I told you I could do it, but nooooo! Always doubting me with everything I do! Now get on that bed, I’m gunna show you it works!!

Harp's avatar

Here’s an interesting article from Stanford Medicine magazine about the subtleties of the naming process.

kevbo's avatar

To help give you an awesome Star Wars name.

drhat77's avatar

Big Pharma doesn’t need to make confusing sounding names in order to mess with you – that’s why it made prozac, etc.

crisedwards's avatar

I don’t have an answer, but I understand. I am on Elavil/Amatriptlyn and I don’t know which is the brand name and which is the chemical name. Or both. Or neither.

scamp's avatar

@kevbo ha ha! I got my name….finally!

asmonet's avatar

Abilify is the best name ever. It’s akin to TRUTHINESS to me, everything about it is silly.

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