Why Are Drugs Named the Way They Are?

Why do drugs have such complicated names?

Believe it or not, there is a technique behind the naming of the prescription drugs that keep us healthy. Today, your friendly McAllen pharmacists at Saenz Pharmacy will help to unravel the mystery of drug names and how they come into existence.

The U.S. Pharmacopeia

For over 200 years, the U.S. Pharmacopeia, known as USP, has set quality standards for medicines, dietary supplements, and foods.

The USP is an independent, scientific, nonprofit organization focused on building trust in the supply of safe, quality medicines. They work in strengthening the global supply chain so that the medicines people require are available when they are needed.

The Compendial Nomenclature

In the United States, unless the FDA has designated an official nonproprietary name for a drug, then the compendial/USP name will apply. 

Normally, the name comes from a written document explaining the qualities and attributes of the medicine. Sometimes, however, there is no such document created yet. In such cases, the interim official nonproprietary name is that provided in the FDA marketing license. The FDA generally defers to the USP to create official nonproprietary names for drugs. 

Generic names are partly based on the medication’s formula. The suffix in a drug’s name provides a key piece of information to health care professionals about how the drug affects the body. 

The creation of the prefix is a tad more creative. There are a number of rules that apply:

  • Prefix must have two syllables.
  • Some letters are prohibited. The generic drug name is created using the Roman alphabet. Because the letters Y, H, K, J, and W aren’t used in certain languages, they aren’t used in the creation of the prefix of the name.
  • It can’t be part of the marketing.
  • It doesn’t involve medical terminology. You don’t want to imply that a drug is intended only for one particular function.

Once the team has created a handful of approved names, these names are then submitted to the USAN Council, which is made up of representatives from the American Medical Association (AMA), United States Pharmacopeia (USP), and the American Pharmacists Association (APhA). 

Sometimes, the meeting goes well and a name is chosen for the medication. Other times, the USAN declines to accept any of the names, and counter proposes a name of its choosing.

Get All the Information You Need About Your Medication at Your Caring McAllen Pharmacy

Many times we may find ourselves apprehensive over our newest prescription. They have a weird and daunting name – but don’t let that intimidate you.

At Saenz Pharmacy, our pharmaceutical team is ready to provide you with all the information you need to be at peace and take your drug safely.

Remember to set up your prescription to be refilled at our pharmacies through our app.