What Eli Lilly’s Zepbound reveals about the intricate process of naming drugs today

November 20, 2023
By Annalisa Merelli


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Whether you’re a fan of the drug name Zepbound or, like one X user, think it sounds like “an off brand bus line,” you’re likely to have some opinion about the new moniker for Eli Lilly’s blockbuster diabetes drug Mounjaro. The company announced the new name on Nov. 8 following the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of the drug for weight loss as well.

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Rebound, or ‘zap pound’? What experts think of Zepbound

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Others gave Zepbound a more lukewarm reception. “It definitely isn’t easy to develop a drug name that meets all the federal requirements, is available as a trademark, and communicates something about the brand,” Erin Milnes, a creative director for Catchword, a global naming and branding agency, said via email. But, she said, the word “bound” recalls rebound, a common concern with any kind of weight loss plan, while also potentially implying that users would be tied to the drug forever or limited by it.

On the other hand, the Catchword team does think the name works better when said rather than written. “It does actually aurally sound kinda like ‘zap pound,’ but doesn’t communicate that when read,” said Milnes.

Milnes’ team was more complimentary about the names Ozempic, Wegovy, and even Mounjaro. “Wegovy’s name has some pronunciation and appearance problems but works better. ‘We go’ suggests collaboration with your doctor and a ‘we’re all in this together’ mindset,” said Milnes. Mounjaro, she added, conjures the idea of a great accomplishment—climbing Kilimanjaro—even if the association with a mountain evokes largeness.

Ozempic evokes the word Olympic and ideas about peak fitness and physical achievement, said Milnes. …


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