The naming of medicines is a meticulous process that involves several steps. In the United States, when a medicine receives approval, it is assigned a generic (official) name first and then a brand name. For instance, phenytoin is the generic name, while Dilantin is the brand name for the same antiseizure drug.

Medicines typically have three types of names: chemical name, common name, and trade name (brand name). The drug naming process is complex and lengthy, often initiated before the drug is approved by regulatory authorities. According to Pfizer, a pharmaceutical company, the process can take up to four years.


During the naming process, efforts are made to ensure that the chosen name is unique, and companies try to avoid similarities with existing names. To achieve distinctiveness, letters like “Q,” “X,” and “Z” are frequently used. The information on a medicine leaflet typically includes details such as the manufacturing and expiry date, price, and the salts used in the medicine. 


Some medicines are marked with a red stripe, indicating that they should be taken only after consulting a doctor. Additionally, certain medicines bear the Rx symbol, suggesting that they require a prescription from a doctor. NRx indicates that only a licensed doctor can advise on these medicines, while XRx means the medicine is available exclusively through a licensed doctor and cannot be obtained directly from a medical store.

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