Meet the Two Women Who Give Prescription Drugs Their Generic Names

bong hyunjung/iStock via Getty Images
bong hyunjung/iStock via Getty Images

You don’t have to be a marketing professional or pharmacist to understand why certain drug brands chose their names. “DiaBeta” sounds like it would help those with diabetes (it does), and “Lopressor” must have something to do with low pressure (it lowers your blood pressure). But the reasons for drugs’ generic names—glyburide and metoprolol for the aforementioned, respectively—aren’t so obvious.

Maybe you assumed that the generic names are chosen through a highly scientific process, or at least devised by the scientists who first manufactured each drug. In reality, the generic names are invented by the two women who compose the United States Adopted Names program (USAN), reports David Lazarus for the Los Angeles Times.

Director Stephanie Shubat and her colleague Gail Karet operate out of Chicago, where they dream up names for about 200 drug applications each year. The five-person USAN council, which only meets biannually and mainly communicates by email, then votes on their ideas.

There is some structure to the naming process. Shubat and Karet come up with uniform “stems” that they use for groups of similar drugs, much like similar English words have prefixes, suffixes, or root words from Latin. Many are intuitive, like estrogen-related drugs containing “estr-” or derivatives of the steroid prednisone containing “pred-” [PDF].

Sometimes drug manufacturers will submit their own suggestions for the generic names, which is where it gets a little tricky, because USAN doesn’t want the generic name to sound too similar to the name-brand drug. If it does, it can cause problems when the patent expires and other generic drug manufacturers try to compete with the name-brand company. For example, the generic name for the arthritis drug Celebrex is celecoxib. Since they contain many of the same letters, consumers might end up continuing to search for “Celebrex” even after cheaper alternatives have hit the market. That name was devised in the 1990s—Shubat said they never would have approved the name today.

In the last 50 years, USAN and international naming associations have masterminded around 11,000 generic drug names. As you can imagine, it’s getting more difficult to come up with new ones—especially considering that Shubat and Karet steer clear of the letters W, K, H, J, and Y, which can be complicated for non-English speakers to pronounce. They also do their best to prevent drug names that could be offensive or distasteful in another language.

For inspiration, Shubat doesn’t always stick to science or etymology. “Sometimes I look at license plates,” she said. “Sometimes I borrow from the names of cats or dogs.”

[h/t Los Angeles Times]

Mental Floss's Three-Day Sale Includes Deals on Apple AirPods, Sony Wireless Headphones, and More

Apple
Apple

During this weekend's three-day sale on the Mental Floss Shop, you'll find deep discounts on products like AirPods, Martha Stewart’s bestselling pressure cooker, and more. Check out the best deals below.

1. Apple AirPods Pro; $219

Apple

You may not know it by looking at them, but these tiny earbuds by Apple offer HDR sound, 30 hours of noise cancellation, and powerful bass, all through Bluetooth connectivity. These trendy, sleek AirPods will even read your messages and allow you to share your audio with another set of AirPods nearby.

Buy it: The Mental Floss Shop

2. Sony Zx220bt Wireless On-Ear Bluetooth Headphones (Open Box - Like New); $35

Sony

For the listener who likes a traditional over-the-ear headphone, this set by Sony will give you all the same hands-free calling, extended battery power, and Bluetooth connectivity as their tiny earbud counterparts. They have a swivel folding design to make stashing them easy, a built-in microphone for voice commands and calls, and quality 1.18-inch dome drivers for dynamic sound quality.

Buy it: The Mental Floss Shop

3. Sony Xb650bt Wireless On-Ear Bluetooth Headphones; $46

Sony

This Sony headphone model stands out for its extra bass and the 30 hours of battery life you get with each charge. And in between your favorite tracks, you can take hands-free calls and go seamlessly back into the music.

Buy it: The Mental Floss Shop

4. Martha Stewart 8-quart Stainless-Steel Pressure Cooker; $65

Martha Stewart

If you’re thinking of taking the plunge and buying a new pressure cooker, this 8-quart model from Martha Stewart comes with 14 presets, a wire rack, a spoon, and a rice measuring cup to make delicious dinners using just one appliance.

Buy it: The Mental Floss Shop

5. Jashen V18 350w Cordless Vacuum Cleaner; $180

Jashen

If you're obsessive about cleanliness, it's time to lose the vacuum cord and opt for this untethered model from JASHEN. Touting a 4.3-star rating from Amazon, the JASHEN cordless vacuum features a brushless motor with strong suction, noise optimization, and a convenient wall mount for charging and storage.

Buy it: The Mental Floss Shop

6. Evachill Ev-500 Personal Air Conditioner; $65

Evachill

This EvaChill personal air conditioner is an eco-friendly way to cool yourself down in any room of the house. You can set it up at your work desk at home, and in just a few minutes, this portable cooling unit can drop the temperature by 59º. All you need to do is fill the water tank and plug in the USB cord.

Buy it: The Mental Floss Shop

7. Gourmia Gcm7800 Brewdini 5-Cup Cold Brew Coffee Maker; $120

Gourmia

The perfect cup of cold brew can take up to 12 hours to prepare, but this Gourmia Cold Brew Coffee Maker can do the job in just a couple of minutes. It has a strong suction that speeds up brew time while preserving flavor in up to five cups of delicious cold brew at a time.

Buy it: The Mental Floss Shop

8. Townew: The World's First Self-Sealing Trash Can; $90

Townew

Never deal with handling gross garbage again when you have this smart bin helping you in the kitchen. With one touch, the Townew will seal the full bag for easy removal. Once you grab the neatly sealed bag, the Townew will load in a new clean one on its own.

Buy it: The Mental Floss Shop

9. Light Smart Solar Powered Parking Sensor (Two-Pack); $155

FenSens

Parking sensors are amazing, but a lot of cars require a high trim to access them. You can easily upgrade your car—and parking skills—with this solar-powered parking sensor. It will give you audio and visual alerts through your phone for the perfect parking job every time.

Buy it: The Mental Floss Shop

10. Liz: The Smart Self-Cleaning Bottle With UV Sterilization; $46

Noerden

Reusable water bottles are convenient and eco-friendly, but they’re super inconvenient to get inside to clean. This smart water bottle will clean itself with UV sterilization to eliminate 99.9 percent of viruses and bacteria. That’s what makes it clean, but the single-tap lid for temperature, hydration reminders, and an anti-leak functionality are what make it smart.

Buy it: The Mental Floss Shop

Prices subject to change.

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links. If you haven't received your voucher or have a question about your order, contact the Mental Floss shop here.

This Is Not a Drill: Oscar Mayer's Wienermobile Is Hiring New Drivers for 2020

Tim Boyle, Getty Images
Tim Boyle, Getty Images

The Oscar Mayer Wienermobile has had many navigators over its 84-year history, including performers and a race car driver. Now, the Oscar Mayer company is looking for a new generation of 'hotdoggers' to get behind the wheel of the iconic ride.

Food & Wine reports that applications are being accepted for the one-year position now through January 31. Hotdoggers tasked with commandeering the Wienermobile will be responsible for doing media interviews and appearing at grocery store and charity events across the country. The position is primarily a PR job, and candidates with a BA or BS in public relations, journalism, communications, advertising, or marketing are preferred.

Carl Mayer, Oscar Mayer's nephew, introduced the first Wienermobile in 1936, and today there are six vehicles on the road making up to 1400 stops a year. After disappearing for a couple decades, the Wienermobile was revived in 1986 for its 50th anniversary. Oscar Mayer hires 12 new hotdoggers each year and usually receives more than 1000 applications.

The job comes with benefits and a competitive salary in addition to the impressive title. The new hires must be ready to hit the road in June of this year; for a shot at becoming Oscar Mayer's next Wienermobile driver, apply by the end of the month here.

[h/t Food & Wine]