Terminator. Predator. White lie. Stallion. When a coworker shared these names and others with me over the messaging app that we usually use to communicate, I was honestly a bit disturbed — her message differed so greatly from the usual "hey, you there?" that I initially thought she'd been hacked or something.
Scary? I think so too. Move over interferon and warfarin, also unusual drug names that have nonetheless slipped into everyday vocabulary! What are the most ridiculous drug names out there? Who actually decides what medications get called? Though this may seem like a light-hearted topic, it's actually serious business, as you'll see. Let's dive right in.
Crazy drug names: What's the most ridiculous thing medications have been called?
Terminator is one name under which benzoyl peroxide — a chemical that works in the treatment of mild to moderate acne — is sold. Yup, we definitely want to terminate pimples. White lie, on the other hand, is an Asian cosmetic cream that is meant to lighten the skin, containing niacinamide and adenosine. In this case, the manufacturer apparently wants to present the idea that unnaturally-flawless skin is a harmless deception on the user's part? Another skin-brightening and anti-wrinkle cream, Barox White Magic, wanted to induce a slightly different image.
Predator, meanwhile, is an over-the-counter pain relief cream that contains the analgesic lidocaine along with other ingredients designed to offer pain relief. Used for things like muscle pain and minor sports injuries, I guess we do want to prey on pain and send it packing. Nonetheless, this particular name boggles the mind a bit. Kung Fu Pain Relief is another anti-pain product. Maybe it wants to kick pain in the butt? Oh, if you don't like cream, you may also opt to try liquid pain relief drops mystically called Arctic Blast.
Black stallion is one of the names given to a product sold for male sexual enhancement and in the fight against erectile dysfunction. Yes, this product contains sildenafil, the active ingredient in Viagra, but it wasn't FDA-approved and it's important to keep in mind that Viagra is prescription-only for a reason — taking it is extremely dangerous for some people. The sale of this product worried the FDA enough to put out a warning not to buy it. In the same genre, there's Stay Hard, a numbing cream meant to battle premature ejaculation.
Allergies can certainly feel trapping, so perhaps it's not so weird that one antihistamine — containing loratadine and pseudoephedrine — was named Liberator.
You don't want nutritional deficiencies, of course, so if you can't eat right at the moment or want to be very sure that you're getting everything you need, you may be after a Megaton. That's right, this one is a multivitamin.
And if you want to combat motion sickness? Try a chewable tablet called Travel Time. Don't want time to slip away from you? Then you might like some Overtime, a caffeine product that is apparently meant to keep you awake for longer periods of time, may be for you.
There's a blender called Magic Bullet, and that makes sense as it kind of resembles a bullet and making smoothies may work magic for your health. A medication meant to treat constipation also carries this same name, mind you. Let's hope that what your body expels after taking it isn't as tough as bullets!
And we haven't even looked at Desirel (trazadone, an antidepressant), Viibryd (vilazodone, another antidepressant), or Perforomist (a medication for asthma and COPD) yet! In some cases, manufacturers are clearly aiming to stand out from the crowd to appeal to consumers, but how do medications actually end up with their names? Who decides?
Who evaluates drug names? How?
Manufacturers themselves propose proprietary names, but the CDER has to take an awful lot of factors into account when deciding whether to approve them:
- New drugs should have names different enough from existing proprietary and generic drugs for patients and doctors not to confuse them — this is important, because you don't want to walk out of the pharmacy with, say, a hypertension drug rather than an antidepressant.
- New drugs must not give false impressions about what they can realistically do for patients — something the FDA calls "promotional". It wouldn't be cool, for instance, to call a medication "Immortality" or "Super-hero".
- The FDA also looks at what a drug name would look like when scribbled down quickly by a prescribing physician — handwritten prescriptions shouldn't result in something that looks an awful lot like the name of another drug, even in weird cursive or whacky handwriting.
- When pronounced verbally, a drug name mustn't sound an awful lot like already existing medications.
Though this process is very rigorous, the FDA also makes it clear that it reserves the right to ask manufacturers to change the names of already approved medications:
"Changing a proprietary name while the product is marketed may be necessary to address medication errors resulting from the name confusion".
Cosmetic products and nutritional supplements are, meanwhile, not subject to the same in-depth thought processes, which explains at least some of the names on our "crazy" list.
Oh, and warfarin? The name of this anticoagulant that was originally a rat poison has nothing to do with warfare — it comes from "WARF", for the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation. Interferon, meanwhile, really is named after its ability to interfere, in this case with the proliferation of viruses.