In what could be the biggest windfall of its kind to date, Northwestern University has received $700-million for selling some of its rights to future royalties from a new blockbuster drug. The drug, marketed under the name Lyrica, is used to treat pain associated with fibromyalgia, shingles, and diabetes.That's right, the brand name of the drug is Lyrica. The generic name is pregabalin, much less melifluous.
This is no accident. Does Pfizer intend for this pain medication to invoke poetry? Who knows exactly. But you can be sure that the name was chosen very carefully and deliberately. Donald G. McNeil penned a very interesting piece for the New York Times a few years back on "the science of naming drugs," in which he cites James Dettore, president of The Brand Institute -- not an institute at all but a Miami-based company specializing in naming drugs. (Lipitor and Clarinex are among its successes.)
Here's how Dettore's "phonologics" works:
"Lipitor is 'lipid regulator' with the -tor of atorvastatin, the generic name," Mr. Dettore added, with the plus that "-or is grounded as a cardiovascular-sounding suffix." Levitra, the Viagra competitor, comes from "elevate," he said, but "we tested and it sounds European, elegant, with premium connotations." "Le" indicates masculinity in French, he noted, and "vitra" can allude to vitality. (Viagra is also said to make men feel vital -- and like mighty Niagara Falls.)Fascinating. What is it about "-or" that makes it sound cardiovascular, or does it even? And what precisely are the "premium connotations" that add to Levitra's European elegance? -- which we still like with drugs apparently even though we despise the Europeans for their approach to our foreign policy.
I recall reading somewhere that big pharma likes to give generics really awkward, hard-to-pronounce names so that they are harder to remember and therefore harder to "ask your doctor" about. Anyone with more and/or interesting link along this line should let me know, as I'm fascinated by this essentially poetic, Adamic function of naming and creation, and the psycholinguistic aspects of it, perverted by and for the marketplace.