Message in a Brand Name: Telling The Product Story in Pharmaceutical Naming


A good brand name must be relevant, informative, and meaningful. One strategy to achieve this is to build in word parts that allude to product features. But knowing that the name will also need regulatory approval, how specific can it be when communicating product features? Let’s start with some examples.

  • Byooviz, a biosimilar used to treat vision impairment disorders, was approved in June 2021. The “yoo-viz” letters evoke the potential improvement of “your vision.” It could even be interpreted that the “-O-O” letter string suggests a pair of glasses.
  • Zynrelef was approved by the EMA in 2020 and the FDA in 2021 for the “relief” of postoperative pain after certain surgical procedures.

These and other precedents show us that it is possible to use this branding strategy. However, ask yourself these questions when deciding whether a name should be considered further for promotional concerns:

  1. Is this name misleading or overstating efficacy?
  2. Does the name broaden the indication?
  3. Does the name influence the prescriber’s intent?
  4. Is the potential claim in the name not supported by the product’s labeling? Is there clinical evidence that supports the potential claim in the name?

We can say “no” to each question in those two examples, so the approvals aren’t surprising. But what is your impression of the approved name Aklief, especially considering its indication “for the topical treatment of acne vulgaris” (Source:  Aklief® Labeling found at Drugs@FDA)?

This is why we evaluate every brand name approved by the FDA, EMA, MHRA, Health Canada, and other regulatory bodies to determine whether the agencies follow their proprietary name guidelines. Occasionally, we see an approval like Aklief, where we must examine whether the sponsor was “lucky” or “strategic”—or maybe a little of both. Either way, using promotional-based claims as the inspiration for a brand name makes it difficult to predict the agency outcome—approval or rejection. In the words of Dyan Rowe Davis, President of SafeMark Regulatory Consulting:

A brand name may imply a concept or claim – if the message is supported by clinical evidence. However, this is a higher-risk strategy.

– Dyan Rowe Davis