Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Inquiring Minds Want to Know . . .

An undergraduate student here in the department, Emily, is doing some work for me and through the course of that work, has expressed in interest in cross-cultural naming practices. One thing I've wanted to look at among the King Islanders has to do with naming so my attention is on names at the moment.

What I want to know is: why is it that many medications' trade names (not the more official medical name) have little-used or unusual letters as part of the name?

For instance, I am on Xeloda, Tykerb, and get monthly injections of Zoladex. There's a couple of "x"'s (by the way, how does one write the plural of "x" - when you want to point out the letter by putting it in quotes, but make it plural, too?), a "z", a "y", a couple of "d"s, a "b", and a "k". I know that Jeanne, at the Assertive Cancer Patient, is on Tykerb and Zometa. Another "z".

Anti-nausea drugs that I've used in the past include Kytril, Zofran, and Fenergan. Let's see, another "z", a "y", a "k", and now there's a couple of "f"s and "r"s.

There's a few "a"s in there, too.

Inquiring minds (at least mine) want to know.

My more cynical side says that by using these unusual letters in their name, the pharmaceutical companies make them memorable and hence more marketable. Emily's take on it (I just chatted about it with her) is that these names are not user-friendly, they don't roll off the tongue easily. Is this the company's way of continuing our discomfort? By giving us unfriendly names to go with the unfriendly drugs we need to use to stay alive?


Liz Kreger said...

Interesting question and not one I've considered before. I just consider myself lucky to remember the names, much less pronounce them. LOL.

Consider Tykerb's testing name ... which was "lapadnib". That took some remembering.

Dee said...

Hi Liz,
And, then, because the names are so confusing, you often collapse them and say something like "Xelokerb" or "Tyloda" or "Zolakerb".

Then, if you're doing chemo, you sometimes get "chemobrain". Doesn't help matters!

Congrats again on your book signing!