Drug Names Used to Serve a Greater Purpose—Here’s How They Can Again

Respiratory drugs with names that contain “air” and “pulm.” Products for cardiovascular diseases with “angio” or “cor” at the end. Even oncology drug names in which very specific scientific terms such as “mTor” and “PD-1” populate prominent sections. These are just a few examples of brand names that draw a fairly easily identifiable line back to their specific therapeutic area.

Recently, these therapeutic-specific names have gone down in popularity, but for a substantial portion of the pharmaceutical brand name development timeline, seeing such names was commonplace. For much of this time, drugs were named by those involved directly in development—clinical specialists who had immense knowledge about the science behind the product. As such, when it came time to develop a name, they chose from what they knew, establishing a string of similar and science-based brand names.

The Advantage of Therapeutic Area-Specific Brand Names

This served (and continues to serve) a number of benefits, to both consumers and medical professionals. Ease of remembrance and recognition from these brand names gives the ensuing marketing efforts more content space to communicate additional messaging about the product. Therefore, consumers are better educated in an efficient manner about the product—an outcome that is beneficial to all groups involved.

Medical professionals, when this is achieved, then bear less of a burden to educate and can spend more of that effort on diagnosis and treatment. Additionally, these professionals, who are tasked with the retention of increasingly large pieces of information, are given a brief respite from remembering which drugs correspond with which diseases and treatments.

Additionally, the consumer marketplace as a whole is often resistant to unfamiliarity, where a new pathway or connection must be created from scratch. This preference toward the familiar drives an uptick in the creation of names which can be easily linked back to a specific therapeutic area using connections that are long-standing and well-known. A brand name that allows a consumer to immediately associate that name with a specific disease or therapeutic area has a leg up on establishing brand equity, as it skips the often rocky “discovery” phase, where a new brand must educate consumers on its basic facts and information.

Why Vaccine Names Follow the Trend

An extensive example of this concept is the naming trends seen in vaccines. Generally speaking, a glance at a list of vaccine names for a specific disease will show an obvious commonality throughout. Take meningitis vaccines, historically, the brands for these products all contain some version of “men” somewhere in the name, making an obvious linguistic tie-in with the disease. This similarity is often unnoticed by patients, as vaccines are normally not prescribed in the same ways as most pharmaceutical products. Most patients simply know it as a flu shot—rarely will an individual go into a clinic and ask for a specific flu vaccine brand they want by name.

Therefore, these names are developed with the goal of quick recognition by medical professionals, who can glance at the name and know immediately for which disease it is for, increasing efficiency in their day-to-day, especially when the demand for these vaccines is high—such as the annual rush for individuals to get their flu shots, which floods clinics, pharmacies, doctor’s offices, etc., with patients who know only they need “a flu shot.”

How Brand Names Help Patients

In addition to brand and product connection familiarity, therapeutic area-specific brand names also benefit from a shared aspect of its target patient area. While this group of individuals may have very little in common overall, they all share one characteristic—they all are impacted by the disease or ailment.

This unique bond can also be a driver for brand name development, in which a product is named in a way to speak to that specific group and connect with them and their current situation. Whether it be a therapeutic area-connected name, or one that provides a promise to their possible cure/treatment, there is a built-in equity for the brand when a name can accomplish one of those goals.

Creating a pharmaceutical brand name carries with it a number of challenges, such a developing a name that has the characteristics necessary to gain both regulatory approval and market success. For some brand names and therapeutic areas, some of the hurdles are made easier to clear by finding a name that is specific to their area, effectively moving them a few steps closer to success while also ensuring recognition and equity as the brand goes throughout its lifecycle.


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