Jane Bates: Why can't drug names be easy to pronounce?

A surprising answer leaves Jane Bates incredulous

A surprising answer leaves Jane Bates incredulous

Are you on any medication? I asked the patient. I’m on Cloppy–doggerel, she explained.

It sounded more like a rhyme-spouting pantomime pony than a pill. So many medicines have such difficult names it’s no wonder we get tongue-tied. I pronounce Clopidogrel with the accent on the second syllable, but perhaps that’s wrong.

A friend is taking Ommy Prazzle. I may have told her once or twice that the stress is on the first ‘e’, as in omEprazole, but she just laughs in my face. 

None of their business

Why can’t drug names be more straightforward? I inquired of someone who works in the pharmaceutical industry. Ezetimibe – really? Who can pronounce that?

Patients, I told him, just can’t remember what they are taking when the words are so odd. And then he said a surprising thing – why do they need to know? It’s the health professionals’ concern, not the patient’s, he added. All the information is available online. It’s not the patient’s business.

I stared, open mouthed. He obviously expects patients to behave like sheep, not human beings. 

Cute and compliant

The plot of a dystopian novel was forming in my head, where the proletariat are all brainwashed chemically to be compliant. Nurse Ratched would be dishing out the tablets with cute little humanoids ensuring we take them.

A world where patients don’t put half their prescribed medication in the bin, or dish them out willy-nilly to their relatives. Where I don’t spend my nursing time hunting for paper GP referrals. Where no one will ever have to pronounce Ezetimibe.

His assumption gave me food for thought. If someone as intelligent and informed as my chemist friend believes we have it all sussed, and patients bear no responsibility, what do the rest of the population think?

Jane Bates is an ophthalmic nurse in Hampshire



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