Monday, January 10, 2011

For readers of a certain age...

Why do so many of our medications read like science fiction planets? I mean, what up with all the Z's and X's?
Here are the figures for medications starting with those letters:

More likely, though, is that use of these letters relates to the imperative to make a brand name highly visible in a crowd. Reflecting their infrequent occurrence in English words, x and z count for 8 and 10 points in Scrabble, the highest values (along with j and q) in the game. So names that contain them are likely to seem special and be memorable. “If you meet them in running text, they stand out,” is the way one industry insider explained. Generally, they are also easy to pronounce.
That is an old insight in the wider field of marketing. But in pharmaceuticals z did not really take off as a brand initial until after 1996, with the number of drugs beginning with the letter rising steeply from 29 to 51 in 2000 (figure). And the widespread use of x (often also pronounced as “zuh”) is later still. Something additional started the bandwagon rolling. 
That said, the use of x and z in drug brands suddenly became extraordinarily prevalent. I suggest that this phenomenon arose because of the fast rate at which new products were being introduced, the fact that the difference between many “me too” drugs was more apparent than real, the immense rewards that were seen to accrue from innovative marketing, and the fact that the ploys available for use in the naming of drugs are so restricted.   [More] 
Thought you might want to know.

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