eli5: Why do medicines have such weird names?


They’re all called things like Zyrtec or Imbruvica. What is the convention that’s used to create these names, and why can’t they just be called something normal, like … I dunno, ‘Headache-Be-Gone’ ?

In: 20

Nowadays, when doctors give names they try to make seem as nice as possible, and most medicines don’t do just one thing. If there are two medicines that cure a headache, how do we tell between the two?

Not sure about other countries but in the UK as with everything in the UK, its highly regulated.

Names like XL or MAX can only be used if it meets certain requirements, it can’t just say it.

Pharmacist here

Brand names used to be more clever and picked by nerds. Sinemet meant sin (latin/without) and emesis (vomiting) for when they added an ingredient to make l-dopa be able to not cause as much nausea

These days they’re mostly made by marketing which makes sense since these are billion dollar products. Q’s, X’s and Z’s are popular to make you remember / seem cutting edge idk

Generic names are the actual chemical, these usually have some type of chemistry nomenclature. Later entries to the same class of drug / similar structure and similar mechanism will often have a root word in common such as atorvastatin, simvastatin, rosuvastatin etc. The generic names are going to be a bit more regulated than the brand names which can be whatever fanciful name.

Generic names, esp for new drugs, go thru a screening process that involves a bunch of high level international health orgs like WHO. They are roughly based on chemical composition, effects, similarity to similar drugs. They also have to be comprehensible in multiple languages and not be so similar to something else that they could be confused. This is an international process, same for everyone. (I did read once that this essentially comes down to two women in Ohio who just make up names. Not sure how accurate that is.)

Then you get to do it again with the brand name, which has more of a marketing focus but has roughly the same goals, easy to remember, can’t be confused with something else, doesn’t seem to promise something that it doesn’t actually do, doesn’t infringe on another company’s product, etc. Different countries have different regulations here, so you can get the same product with the same active ingredient with two different brand names eg Brintellix was deemed too close to Bristeq? so in the US it’s called Trintellix.

Because normal people would call them after the way they fix or the illness, I thought Mycoxafloppin would be far better than viagra.