Drug Superstars

Save our life and you’ll get thanks, respect and veneration. But bring us pleasure or enhance our lifestyles and we’ll be yours forever.

Drug makers have noticed this acutely. They now market a kind of pharmaceutical that can be called the lifestyle drug. This includes medicines developed to treat problems that didn’t exist before, at least in our awareness. Previously thought of as purely psychological or a common consequence of maturity, these problems have been relabeled as syndromes and disorders . The drugs that treat them have in some cases become blockbuster products.

One way to make them into blockbusters is via asemantic naming. Generally, asemantic, or never-before-used words or word fragments, stand a better chance of passing government approval. They convey no perceived meaning.

However in the world of lifestyle drugs, spin doctors also need to appeal directly to patients. Their dilemma is how to pass the inspectors’ scrutiny on the names while attracting users and their physicians.

Enter relational names. These are labels that can connect in some way to the condition being treated. Or they suggests images of desired results. With deep-pocket public-awareness campaigns to promote these names, they’ve got to be durable enough to stand up outside doctors’ offices, something not generally demanded of their asemantic counterparts.

How do the names gain recognition? For medications prescribed for the dreaded men’s malady, erectile dysfunction, superstars in the sports world come to mind. One such drug climbed onto the shoulders of Major League Baseball. Another rode the carts of the Professional Golf Association Tour. Yet another huddled with the National Football League. Their emblems have also appeared at prominent yacht and car racing events.

Clever naming and brand positioning has treated the embarrassment of an embarrassing male condition by turning it into a superstar activity. By inventing and associating the names with youthful masculinity, speed, and power, focus has been shifted from a problem to a celebration of aspiration.

Two of the names of these male lifestyle drugs are revealing. To many, Viagra suggests the endurance and force of Niagara Falls. It’s competitor Levitra combines the root word for life, the appealing idea of levitation or rising with the phonic rhythm of the word, libido.

With heavy advertising backing them, these names sell not only the drug, but also introduce a new condition into the vernacular. And this feeds an expanding spiral of awareness, hope, social acceptance, purchase.

Lifestyle enhancement of this type sells well around the world. But in the age of the global competition, can one name be the brand of choice for a whole world?

Apparently not. In the huge anything-goes market of India more than one drug company has copied these prized pharmaceuticals. To sell them, new names have been developed. The Indian male performance enhancer goes by the handle of Silagra. For Latin America the name Tarzia was considered, but Eviva ultimately prevailed. In the Middle East, it became plain and simple Erecto.

Before departing the drug-addled world of name-smithing, here are the answers to the question raised in EM 28, Which are the real, and which the fictional drug names?

Norvasc & Novril: The real drug is Norvasc, a treatment for hypertension and chest pain. Novril is a highly-addictive fictional Steven King analgesic. Qualex & Seroquel: The real drug is Seroquel, an antipsychotic medication for schizophrenia and bipolar disorders. Qualex is a comic MadTV housewife tranquilizer. Klonopin & Retinax: The real drug is Klonopin, used for treating seizures and panic disorder. Retinax is a Star Trek cure for far sightedness. Tretonin & Diazepam: The real drug is Diazepam, the generic form of Valium. Tretonin is a Stargate immunity-boosting drug.

Stay healthy.

More from Joseph JK . . .