I’ve always had a strong fascination with product names, especially those for medications. In fact, I wrote a whole play about it – or more accurately, about the fates of four English majors stuck at a pharmaceutical firm where they have to come up with a new name for a bed-wetting drug in ten minutes or else they get fired.
In writing it, I realized that drug companies follow strict, dopey rules when they name their drugs: among them, the drug has to subconsciously sound like what it treats, it has to have the vague anagram of a solution, and it has to have a every expensive Scrabble letter in it, like a K, X, Y, Z or V.
So I’d like to list my favorite medicine names, because I think a few of these are truly brilliant:
1. Vioxx – Violent treatment against pain, and not one, but TWO X’s right in a row. Too bad it makes seniors fall down dead, because this drug is named for ACTION to the EXXTREME, baby! Celebrex or Bextra? Boring. My back spasms cry VIOXX!
2. Ayr (saline nasal spray) – Oh, how simple yet sneaky. Take the most innocuous word in English; indeed, the most innocuous thing in LIFE – air itself – and jack a 21st-century “Y” into it. If you’re not breathing Ayr, you’re not breathing!
3. Paxil – Not my anti-depressant of choice (I take the more selective Celexa), but combining the Latin word for peace in a little parcel of a pill was a stroke of genius. Honorable mention goes to Zoloft, for lofty reasons.
4. Castor Oil – You have to give castor oil balls for staying castor oil. Nothing sounds worse, nothing has quite the same greasy viscosity combined with feeling like a castaway on your own island of abject misery. And yet, with a name like that, you know it fucking WORKS.
5. Allegra – It’s almost a straight-ahead anagram for “allergy,” but also combines the Italian music direction “allegro,” meaning a spritely, fast tempo. With your sinuses feeling this gay, how could you not gambol in the pansies?
6. Desitin – Destined for your ass, maybe.
7. Rogaine – The subconscious anagrams abound: Are you that rogue who gained all his hair back? How does it feel to regain rows of thick hair? Grow again, Rogaine!
8. Zyprexa – Are you kidding? It has a Z, a Y and an X! This medication for schizophrenia and “acute bipolar mania” has a name as fucked up as its patients, and that’s pretty awesome in my book. Too bad Zaxxon was already taken.
Oh, you’d like to know my LEAST favorite medicine names? Well, there are two, really. Two products whose names should have been axed at the design stage. You have to remember that someone heard these names at a board meeting, and said, “Yes. Yes, let’s go with that. Brilliant work!” Designs were laid out, plans were unveiled, thousands of crates were shipped, and nobody said anything about: