What's in a drug name? Hopefully some Xzitement

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Xeljanz has an X and Z in the name to lodge a place in consumers' memories--courtesy of Pfizer

There's nothing like a new commercial drug name to get the Twitter crowd buzzing about the often awkward arrangement of syllables that go into these tortured concoctions. Xtandi, Incivek and Stribild all earned jabs, along with many others. And Reuters reports that you can expect plenty of new drug monikers beginning with X and Z.

In part, that's because X and Z are back in fashion among the naming crowd. Vince Budd, senior vice president at Addison Whitney's healthcare division, tells Reuters' Deena Beasley that the X and Z trend was fashionable among the naming experts 8 to 9 years ago. And what goes around comes around. "I believe we have come full circle and we are back there again, especially in oncology."

The whole naming formula revolves around a few key concepts. It has to be distinctive, stick in consumers' minds, avoid negative connotations and perhaps signal its unique mode of action for physicians.

"In terms of cognitive psychology... they need a memorable, distinctive name that doesn't have negative associations," Matthew Traxler, a linguistics professor at the University of California, Davis, tells the wire service. "They may be distinct in terms of sound, but also visually distinct."

Scott Piergrossi, vice president, creative at Brand Institute, chose Pfizer's ($PFE) Xeljanz (better known as tofacitinib to researchers) as his favorite new drug name. It has an X and Z in it to lodge a place in consumers' memories and a "JAN" to remind doctors that it blocks Janus kinases.

If Piergrossi is right, the Twitter group will have plenty of fun to look forward to as more new drugs are branded for popular consumption. Some may do a little Zjyg (jig to you and me). 

- here's the Reuters story

Editor's Corner: What's in a (drug) name?

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