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Where Do Pharmaceutical Drug Companies Get Their Names?

Personal Names

Almost all large pharmaceutical drug companies have the name or names of their founders in the business name. Pfizer, Lilly, Smith, Kline, Merck and others were entrepreneurs that built their respective businesses.

Product Names

A few pharmaceutical drug companies contain the name or names of products. The Glaxo in GlaxoSmithKline was a baby food sold in New Zealand in 1904!

Invented Words

Other pharmaceutical drug companies use invented words for their names. The ‘Zeneca’ part of AstraZeneca was invented when ICI spun off its drug business in 1994.

What About Pharmaceutical Drugs?

These days, pharmaceutical drug companies often hire outside consultants to name their products. The generic name, which appears in small letters under the brand name, is coined by the United States Adopted Names Council (USAN).

What Does It Cost To Name a Drug?

In 2007 the cost of naming your breakthrough pharmaceutical drug ran from $200,000 to $500,000. And with over 30,000 trademarked drugs in the US, it’s a real challenge to come up with a name that stands out. Consultants often try to link a sound from a disease or a favorable outcome with the drug name, as “Advair” and “asthma.”

Of course, not all drugs are named by an outside consultancy. In 2007, Eli Lilly needed a name for its cancer drug ‘multi-targeted anti folate’. They wanted a name that included the letters “MTA” (doctor’s shorthand for the drug). Instead of hiring a consultancy, they had an employee competition. The winner? “Alimta.”

Is The FDA Involved?

The FDA oversees all new pharmaceutical drug brand names. As more and more drugs have been launched, there has been an increase in treatment errors based on confusion of brand names. The FDA has been trying to cut down on that risk as new drugs have been launched.



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