Du sildenafil citrate au Viagra® ou l’art délicat de nommer les médicaments
In times past, drugs often derived from plants and were quite naturally named after them. Nowadays, considering the significant economic issues at stake (Dutchen 2009), pharmaceutical companies increasingly entrust brand agencies with the naming of their products (Kenagy 2001). In this article, we offer to analyze the names of some brand and generic drugs, exploiting the French VIDAL dictionary, the British National Formulary and the US FDA corpora, with the aim to bring to light the evolution of lexical trends over the last century. Whilst doing so, we wish to demonstrate that, in the field of pharmacology, the process of naming is nowadays not so much underlain by a legitimate need for clarity and scientificity but rather by marketing strategies some of which prove to be misleading for patients. Considering the now international dimension of the pharmaceutical industry, drug names are often the same around the world. Yet, there are exceptions, which we point out and explain. Furthermore, we deemed interesting to underline the extent to which medicines are part of our everyday life by pointing out nicknames that patients tend to give to their treatments — usually sedatives, neuroleptics and the like — and metaphors they may resort to in English and in French. We conclude with the acknowledgement that medicines are henceforth like any other goods, whose financial stakes are such that, besides developing forceful new names, the pharmaceutical industry goes so far as inventing new diseases (disease mongering) to increase its market share (Even and Debré 2012).
Keywords: branding, neologism, medicines, pharmaceutical industry, marketing
Published online: 25 April 2014
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