how exactly do prescription drugs get their names

Last time, we discussed how the U.S. Food and Drug Administration was warning patients taking either Brintellix and Brilinta, the former an antidepressant and the latter a blood-thinner, to exercise caution as their similar-sounding names were creating confusion among both physicians and pharmacists. Indeed, the FDA indicated it had received reports of 50 medication errors involving the two drugs.

Stories like these naturally raise questions as to how it is that prescription drugs, particularly those we see advertised so frequently on television, even get their names in the first place. 

Is there some sort of process as to how new prescription drugs are assigned their names?

There is no established process by which names for new prescription drugs are assigned. In fact, the companies that develop these drugs simply come up with the names on their own.

However, they must submit these proposed names to the FDA’s Division of Medication Error Prevention and Analysis.

What exactly does DMEPA do?

DMEPA’s primary function is to put the proposed drug name through a rather rigorous review process, comparing it to both existing drugs and those still under agency review.

What does this rigorous review process entail?

DMEPA compiles a comprehensive list of drugs with which the proposed drug name could possibly be confused, likely rejecting it if the list becomes too long.

Some of the factors taken into consideration when compiling this list include the pronunciation of the proposed drug name in a variety of accents, its spelling and its handwritten appearance. Indeed, multiple handwriting samples are solicited as a means of determining whether the proposed drug name could potentially be viewed by patients, nurses, physicians and/or pharmacists as something else.

Does DMEPA use any other criteria to vet proposed drug names?

Yes. It will determine whether the proposed drug name is either “overly fanciful” or has the potential to mislead consumers by making it sound unrealistically effective.

How many proposed drug names does DMEPA reject?

According to agency officials, roughly one third of the 400 proposed drug names submitted for review every year are ultimately rejected.

Always remember you can seek justice if you or a family member has suffered any sort of serious bodily harm because of a medication mistake. Indeed, a skilled legal professional can determine what went wrong, what protocols were in place to prevent an error from occurring and who must be held accountable.

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