The best pharmaceutical Brand name is easy to say, easy to spell, and easy to remember. Clearly communicating the unique and favorable aspects of the drug makes it easy on the physicians, pharmacists, nurses, and patients to remember the drug whether they are prescribing or purchasing. But within the constantly changing environment of the pharmaceutical industry, increasingly strict regulatory constraints and a growing number of trademarks has lead to a complex and competitive marketplace much different than what the industry was even ten years ago.
Lets take Advair, GlaxoSmithKline’s top-selling preventative asthma drug, as an example of a Brand that is easy to say, easy to spell, and easy to remember. Doctors have been prescribing Advair – or “advantage air” – to patients of all ages for the past fifteen years, with approximately 13.6 million prescriptions written in 2015, placing it as number seven in the top 100 prescriptions by sale. Joining Advair at the top of the list are other well-established, blockbuster drugs like Humira, Abilify, Enbrel, and Crestor…ironically enough, all trademarked in the late 90’s-early 2000’s, and all easy to say, easy to spell, and easy to remember.
This raises a question, would a strong, yet suggestive name such as Advair get approved today? “It would be considered a high risk strategy in 2016 because of what we have learned over the years with regards to a name that implies a potential promotional claim,” explains Dyan Rowe Davis, President of SafeMark Regulatory Consulting, “I have clients that see successful brands like Advair, and become curious why their similarly suggestive names aren’t making it through the rigorous screening process” Dyan explains, “it is a constant balancing act in the healthcare industry, you need to create a safe name but also want a name that is memorable. While the purpose of the Brand name hasn’t changed since Advair, the regulatory approval process has evolved and continues to become increasingly stringent, making today’s names more difficult to say, spell, and remember.”
What many healthcare companies don’t realize is that several years after top-selling, blockbuster drugs like the ones previously mentioned were approved, the FDA started the Prescription Drugs User Fee Act (PDUFA) Pilot Program. This provided a tighter framework for evaluating proprietary Brand names submitted to the FDA for approval, focusing more on evaluating names for potential sound-alike and look-alike issues, as well as potential promotional claims, which is what Advair would be considered.
Brandsymbol President & CEO, Clayton D. Tolley – who also happens to be responsible for creating the successful Advair Brand – also points out, “there weren’t nearly as many trademarks in the 1990’s when we worked on the Advair project as there are today.” There were over 1.2 million names trademarked just in class 5 in 2015, which naturally increases the complexity of the naming. “The more Brand names that are trademarked, the more competition we are creating against, making the chance of confusion and trademark infringement much higher.”
Brands coming to market today must be viable from a regulatory and legal standpoint, which poses as a significant challenge to healthcare companies and branding agencies, but does this mean that getting a suggestive name that is easy to say, easy to spell, and easy to remember is impossible? “Absolutely not,” Clayton remarks, “brands today just need to be smarter and more strategic than ever before.”
Many suggestive names have been, and continue to be introduced to the marketplace. Acorda Therapeutics – a major, multinational biotechnology Company – recently trademarked the Brand name Plumiaz, for their new seizure-cessation drug. Not as obviously suggestive as “advantage air,” but broken down, the Brand clearly communicates the key product attributes and differentiators from competing seizure-cessation drugs. Using the “Plum-“ word part, the Brand alludes to the innovative nasal spray delivery method, and through “-iaz” the Brand leverages diazepam, the drug’s active ingredient. Plumiaz is a safe name that successfully embeds the imagery and associations in the minds of patients and prescribers, which is exactly what healthcare companies are aiming to do in today’s ever-changing branding world.