Lyrica, Xeljanz, Latuda, Brilinta, Entyvio, Vedolizumab, Toujeo, Prevagen, Xarelto - these are but a sampling of the words I learned while watching television news between 6 and 7:30 a.m. Some, like Lyrica or Brilinta might be new baby names for girls; some might belong to bellicose monsters - Vedolizumab and Xarelto; others have a tentative connotation - prevagen. All carry warnings of severe side effects, some including possible death, for which final effect seems a more fitting adjective. I wondered who names these drugs and whether that is a discrete profession or the product of a staff party with too much alcohol. Are these names with their strange letter combinations the substitute for the unreadable handwriting all doctors previously used to exclude us from their special knowledge? In our digital-happy world where prescriptions must be wired instead of written by the doctor, we may soon no longer need the pharmacists who were trained to decipher those heiroglyphics. One can only wonder at how frequently the wrong medication was previously procured and whether or not that made any difference.
After all, medical protocol tends to reverse itself every decade or so. We now “know” that peanuts should be offered to babies as early in their infancy as six months. Of course you must be certain that your baby won’t go into anaphylactic shock by feeding them - I use that ungrammatical pronoun so as not to offend any infant who might have a gender preference different from their visible nether-parts - an egg and seeing what happens. Babies who die from eggs wil not do well with peanut butter either.
Back to the inscrutable and often unpronounceable names for drugs - my second theory is that their expense necessitates a name that is rare and exotic and never encountered before. None of has ever seen an actual entyvio so we can imagine that its obscurity implies difficulty to harvest or even create in a test tube, making its astronomical price tag more justified. If, for example, you have to send couriers to the steppes of Kalookistan on Mongolian horses to search for entyvio leaves, of course it will cost a lot more than a drug that has only five letters in its mediocre name - advil, for one. While it’s true that the lengthy phenobarbitol is still not overpriced, that illustrates the difference between polysyllabic words and completely unrecognizable ones. We can make out pheno, a common prefix, and there’s that friendly barbi at the end. Try parsing vedolizumab for anything familiar and you’ll get my point.
I am grateful that I don’t need to ask for any of these drugs out loud and in full disclosure, I have to add one more word that did appear in the morning time slot and was not related to big pharma - trivago. Though I would have guessed it was a misspelled acronymic cure for vertigo, it’s actually a website for checking comparative hotel prices. Well, at least you don’t need a prescription for it so it’s safe to just forget it until they come up with a more ingenious name that you might actually remember - like hotelprice.com
Have PoliticalMavens.com delivered to your inbox in a daily digest by clicking here