Recently I read a great article on the use of brand names when referring to drugs. The author, a doctor, decries the practice and says doctors should use the name of the drug rather than the brand name. The brand name of the drug, after all, was chosen by a marketer and a focus group and is really just advertising for the drug.
The only trouble is, patients don’t know, or can’t remember, the actual names for drugs.
The Real Drug Name
As I mentioned last time, Merck created the brand name “Vasotec” for their drug enalapril. You might have noticed that “enalapril” is actually derived, to some extent, from the chemical compound itself. Useful to a chemist perhaps, but not too meaningful to me.
And because these names are assigned, and somewhat based on a chemical formula, they are really tough to remember. Here are a few common psychotropic drugs:
- Fluoxetine – Prozac
- Sertraline – Zoloft
- Desvenlafaxine – Pristiq
- Quetiapine – Seroquel
- Olanzapine – Zyprexa
- Ziprasidone – Geodon
Two of my favorites are carbamazepine and oxcarbazepine because for the life of me, I always get them confused (Tegretol and Trileptal). Some of these names are even impossible to say, see aripiprazole (Abilify).
He’s Right, Drug Names Are Ads
But the doctor’s point is well taken. Drug names are selected to make you, the patient, choose that drug. They are chosen to make you feel good about that drug. They are chosen to make the company more money. (And yes, this stuff really works, no matter how above advertising you think you are.)
- Sarafem (a form of Prozac for women with severe PMS) – the angelic “seraphim” and “fem” for feminine
- Lipitor – from “lipid regulator”
- Viagra – vital (think Niagra Falls)
And naturally, the last reason anyone should take a drug is because of branding.
Using the real name instead of the brand name does make more sense and the real name sure produces less of an emotional response. “Oh, did you know desvenlafaxine is out now. So what? When is Pristiq available?”
But Patients Have a Lot to Contend With Already
The trouble is, patients have enough to remember already. If someone asked you what you were on and you had to say “desvenlafaxine” it would probably come out like, “you know, devenyl-something.” Which isn’t of too much use when a doctor is checking drug-drug interactions. No computer searches for devenyl-something.
Basically the doctor is right, but which is easier to remember, Tylenol or acetaminophen?
I’ll Try to Give Drug Names
For my part, I’m going to try to use drug names and put the brand names in brackets, because he’s right, even the names themselves are an advertisement. However, I see no way of reasonably getting away from them.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to take some naproxen and lay down; I have a headache (Aleve).