POCA, defined by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) as the Phonetic and Orthographic Computer Analysis program, “is an analytic tool designed to help identify drug and biologic names that are phonetically and/or orthographically similar to one another. POCA uses algorithms to assess the similarity of names when spoken or written and assigns a percent similarity score to a given name pair.”
When evaluating a submitted proprietary name, the Division of Medication Error Prevention and Analysis (DMEPA) evaluates the orthographic and phonetic similarity of a proposed proprietary name to other proprietary or established names using the POCA software program.
Recently, POCA was updated from version 3.2 to version 4.0, in order to “better capture the shift in the type of errors that are being reported due to the use of electronic prescribing.” Version 4.0 modified the algorithms used in the program “to put more emphasis on the similarity that occurs at the beginning of the name, especially the first three letters and on exact letter matches, and also to emphasize where names share letters that are not consecutive.”
Although POCA is a very useful tool in the name safety evaluation process, it is suggested that POCA should play a prominent role in any pharmaceutical naming initiative. The results of POCA are not used to assess a name candidate from a safety perspective, but to complement a world-class creative development process which ultimately supports optimizing the name selection process for regulatory review.
In short, POCA is a creative tool that provides a score (on a scale 0%-100%) in order to avoid creating names that may be “red flagged” (a score of 75% or higher) and may be eliminated later in the name review process of the DMEPA based on the POCA score alone. During the creative process, POCA provides output which will dictate the amount of time spent on the analysis and continued creative work prior to name submission.
POCA is available as a tool to help the safety evaluation of the proposed proprietary name. Because of the DMEPA’s use of POCA as part of their name evaluation process, it is vital that creative agencies try to avoid creating names that may be “red flagged” later in the process based on the POCA score by incorporating the program into their creative process from an early stage.