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Is That Really the Drug Name? Take This Quiz and Find Out

Can you tell which names are proprietary

brand names and which are not?

I was pleased to see my recent article, “The Secret Formula Behind Every Drug Name,” published in PM360 Panorama and in my blog, generate lots of interest.

Peeking behind the curtain to see how proprietary brand names are created, such as Humira® and Xanax®, touched a nerve, and revealed the “colorful linguistic tapestry” of the world's drug brand names.

But there’s an even larger body of drug nomenclature---like nonproprietary names, clinical trial names, drug class names, drug technology names, and acronyms---that distinguishes drugs, groups of drugs, and studies of drugs.

Think you can pick out the brand names from the other types of drug nomenclature? (Hint: half of them are proprietary brand names.)

Is HEROIN a brand name or a “common name”?

Is MYDRIATIC a brand name or a drug class name?

Is OFEV a brand name or an acronym?

Is NeoSphere a brand name or a clinical trial name?

Is TOBI a brand name or a “pet name"?

Is CELECOXIB a brand name or a nonproprietary name?

Is PUSHTRONEX a brand name or drug delivery technology name?

Is DIMOXINIL a brand name or a nonproprietary name?

Test your knowledge with answers below:


Heroin (created from heroisch, German for “heroic”) was once upon a time the brand name for an over-the-counter cough medicine for children, trademarked by Bayer & Co. in 1898. But heroin lost legal protection as a trademark by becoming the generic term for any highly addictive opioid, and is known today as a “common name.” (Aspirin is also a common name.)

HEROIN is a common name.


All marketed medicines are organized into drug classes. Mydriatic agents are a class of drugs that cause the pupil of the eye to dilate, assisting examinations and treatment. Hence, mydriatic is derived from the Latin word mydriasis, for "enlarged pupil." A few mydriatic agent brand names are Altafrin® and Tropicacyl®.

MYDRIATIC is a drug class name.


Looks like an acronym, right? But it’s not. Ofev® (nintedanib), a lung disease treatment, takes it's name from a pulmonary test known as “FEV1/FVC ratio.” Ofev is unique for another reason too: short, four-letter drug names are uncommon (although another one follows).

OFEV® is a brand name.


Clinical trials are research studies with human participants to evaluate safety, efficacy and health outcomes of medical substances and devices. Establishing a clinical trial brand has become an effective strategy for Pharma companies to build awareness and improve patient recruitment for their studies. NeoSphere® is the clinical trial name for the studies that highlight the neoadjuvant treatment pertuzumab, evaluated in the clinical trials which led to the approval of the brand name, Perjeta®.

NeoSphere® is a clinical trial name.


Drug "pet names" are shorthand versions of longer drug nomenclature, sort of like drug nicknames. The nonproprietary name tobramycin was affectionately known as "Tobi" when it was under clinical development as an inhaled antibiotic, but later the brand name Tobi® was made official when it was accepted as a trademark.

TOBI® is a brand name.


Nonproprietary names (also called "generic names") are shorter names assigned to the chemical or drug active ingredient that is not subject to trademark (proprietary) rights. Celecoxib is a COX-2 selective nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (the acronym is NSAID) sold by Pfizer under brand names Celebrex® and Celebra® for arthritis.

CELECOXIB is a nonproprietary name.


Pushtronex® is an autoinjector, or an on-body infusor, which provides a monthly single-dose of Repatha®, a high-cholesterol treatment, in one injection. The technical-sounding, descriptive name Pushtronex suggests a convenient and next-generation self-administration injection device.

PUSHTRONEX® is a drug technology name.


This is a trick name. Dimoxinil is the fictional brand name of a hair growth drug in "The Simpsons," an American animated sitcom. Dimoxinil is an anagram (rearranged letters) of minoxidil, a real nonproprietary name that is actually used for treatment of male pattern baldness. Minoxidil was approved by FDA in 1988 under the brand name Rogaine® (after the name Regain was famously rejected by the FDA as "misleading.")

Surprised? See more names, nomenclature and terms in the Drug Naming Glossary.

And let me know your comments here.

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