Drug names, whether brand or generic, are sometimes a pharmacist’s worst enemy. Pronunciation struggles, spelling difficulties, and memorization issues make you wonder how and why pharmaceutical companies come to name their drugs.
This is how I assumed drug names were created, but Twitter user Andy Webb (@AJWPharm) started a great thread on drug origin names.
Here are some of my favourites:
Some drugs are named after people:
Carfilzomib after the company founders Carl and Phyllis— Rafael Fonseca MD (@Rfonsi1) October 9, 2019
The inventor of the selegiline patch named the product after his two kids Emily and Sam – Emsam!— Andy Webb (@AJWPharm) October 9, 2019
Others are named after the places they were discovered:
Alemtuzumab, or Campath, was named after the CAMbridge PATHology lab which discovered the original antibody target— Andy Webb (@AJWPharm) October 10, 2019
Nystatin – developed by researchers at the New York State Health Department. Subsequently named it N.Y.STATIN.— Tiffany Vu (@PharmDTV) October 9, 2019
Warfarin is a classic, a coumARIN discovered at the Wisconsin Agricultural Research Foundation (WARF) after investigating why so many cows were hemorrhaging after eating moldy sweet clover— Andy Webb (@AJWPharm) October 9, 2019
Edoxaban is a direct factor Xa inhibitor developed by Daiichi Sankyo, a Japanese pharmaceutical company. Edo (江戸, “bay-entrance” or “estuary”) is the historical name of Tokyo.— Joel Papak MD FACP (@JoelPapak) October 9, 2019
Tacrolimus was named after the area in Japan it was discovered, Tsukuba— Andy Webb (@AJWPharm) October 9, 2019
Tsukuba mACROlide IMmUnoSuppresant
While some are named after … favourite gangster movies (?):
Rifamycin (titular drug of the class including rifampin) was named after the discoverer’s favorite gangster movie, Rififi— Nico Cortes (@Cortes_Penfield) October 9, 2019
Sometimes drugs have scientific origins:
Epinephrine and adrenaline result from different ways of combining anatomical terms.— Aaron Miller (@amillerphd) October 9, 2019
Both roughly translate as “on/near the kidney”
Namenda, a common Rx for Alzheimer’s Disease, was named after its mechanism of action as a NMDA-receptor antagonist.— Scott Mintzer 🧠 (@scott_mintzer) October 9, 2019
Oh oh! I also like that the factor 10a inhibitors give you a clue that’s what they are!— Matt King (@EDPharmacistUK) October 10, 2019
api-Xa-ban, rivaro-Xa-ban, edo-Xa-ban
Sertraline – binds SERT receptors— Evan White (@evanandrewwhite) October 6, 2019
Others are named based on how they were made:
Even generic names can have interesting etymologies:— 🎃Spooky Pectoriloquy🎃 (@Caulimovirus) October 6, 2019
Acetylsalicylic acid is the acetylated form of salicylic acid (an innate defense compound in plants) first derived from the bark of Willow trees (genus Salix).
Premarin = derived from pregnant mare urine.— Jordan Covvey (@jcovvey) October 9, 2019
Lispro insulin has an amino acid sequence reversal at LYSine and PROline. Hence Lyspro (Lispro) insulin. 💉— Haitham Ahmed, MD, MPH (@haithamahmedmd) October 9, 2019
One of my faves is EMLA cream – Eutectic Mixture of Local Anaesthetics 🤓— Matt King (@EDPharmacistUK) October 9, 2019
And some are named based on an important characteristic of the drug:
I still love the fact that they named carbidopa/levodopa sinemet (sin -without, emet – emesis) because the previous formulation of the drug was notoriously known for making those who take it vomit. I love etymology, and it’s cool how they use it in pharma marketing.— Max Jordan N (@MaxJordan_N) October 5, 2019
Prevacid – prevents acid— mandi sehgal (@msehgalmd) October 6, 2019
Lasix- LAsts SIX hours 🤪— Michelle Patterson (@MLP_PharmD) October 9, 2019
Forfivo is… four five O = 450 mg— Tony Dao, PharmD, CPHIMS (@tonydaopharmd) October 9, 2019
Finally, my personal favourite:
Morphine from Morpheus, the Greek god of dreams— Brent C. Beckner, PharmD (@BCB_PharmD) October 9, 2019
So it seems like not all drug names are strings of random letters!
Do you have a favourite drug origin name, or know of another one not mentioned here? Leave it below in the comments!