The secrets of naming drugs: How do companies come up with them?

September 24, 2021
By John Muller, Allen Levine


WPIX Channel 11 News

WPIX Channel 11 NewsIf you watch television, you see ad after ad for drug after drug.

Drugs actually have three names:  a chemical name, an international non-proprietary name and a brand name. It’s the brand name that drug manufacturers usually hope we know.

But coming up with brand names is not easy.

“When people think of naming they think of Madmen,” Laurel Sutton told PIX11.  She’s the Co-Founder of a product naming company called Catchword. “They think a bunch of people go to a bar and have some beers and write some names down on cocktail napkins and say ‘brilliant, this is the name.’ And that’s not how naming is done.” 

Instead, brand naming of drugs is generally a lengthy process. Naming companies must investigate trademark and name availability as well as whether the Internet domain name is available. 

For drugs there also are FDA requirements. The process can take months and cost tens of thousands of dollars.  Plus, namers must avoid confusion in the sound and spelling of new drugs. …

But these brand names aren’t aimed at consumers. These vaccines aren’t sold over the counter.

Medical professionals deal with them. So, does a potentially awkward brand name like Comirnaty really matter much?

“It’s perfectly fine and perfectly serviceable,” according to branding authority Laurel Sutton. “And people are going to call it the Pfizer vaccine anyway.” …

Full story


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