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How are medicines named?

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21 November 2012
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The names of medicines can be difficult to pronounce or spell. There is a process for agreeing the generic name - called the international non-proprietary name - of a new medicine.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) is responsible for international non-proprietary names of new medicines. The pharmaceutical company suggests up to six names for its new medicine.

Some of the rules:

  • The name should be distinct in sound and spelling - and not very long
  • The name should not be easily confused with the name of other medicines
  • The letters ‘h’, ‘k’ and ‘y’ should be avoided - they can cause translation and pronunciation difficulties in other languages
  • The end of the word might indicate the type of medicine. For example, beta-blockers, which open up blood vessels and slow the heart, end with "olol"

For more information see PJ Online