Drugs Names - Pharmacology

One of the most confusing aspects of pharmacology is naming drugs. A drug is given three names. Each is used in a different area of the drug industry. These names are the drug’s chemical name, generic name, and brand name.


The chemical name identifies chemical elements and compounds that are found in the drug. The chemical name is important to chemists, pharmacists, and researchers who work with drugs at the chemical level.

A chemical name looks strange to anyone who isn’t a chemist and is difficult for most of us to pronounce. That’s why names other than the chemical name are given to a drug. Here is the chemical name for a commonly used drug: N-acetyl-p-aminophenol.


The generic name of a drug is the universally accepted name and considered the official proprietary name for the drug. The generic name appears on all drug labels and is the official name listed in official sources such as the Physicians Desk Reference (PDR). The pharmaceutical company that patents a drug has exclusive rights to sell it until the patent expires.

When the patent expires, other drug manufacturers may distribute the drug under the drug’s generic name or create a brand name. The generic version of a drug may be cheaper than the original drug and the cost is usually reimbursed by insurance companies. An example of a generic name for a commonly used drug is acetaminophen. The generic name is easier to read and pronounce than the drug’s chemical name, N-acetyl-p-aminophenol.


Drug companies often select and copyright a trade or brand name for their drug. This restricts the use of this name to that particular company. Many brand names may exist for the same chemical compound.

Brand name drugs may be more costly than generic drugs and are partially reimbursed or not covered at all by insurance companies.

A brand name for acetaminophen is Tylenol (patented by Johnson & Johnson Pharmaceuticals).

An example of the correct documentation of the generic and brand name of a drug is: furosemide (Lasix). This drug is a diuretic used for many patients with hypertension (high blood pressure) or cardiac (heart) disease.

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