Mnemonic Devices

Even with the best of memorization skills or mnemonic devices, it would be unlikely to remember all the different drug names on the market. Instead, the agencies and organizations that determine the names of pharmaceutical drugs have systems in place to help guide any healthcare worker through understanding what a drug is meant to treat by its generic name. Knowing these varying systems will help you navigate the vast world of pharmaceutical medications and make sure that patients under your care stay safe and receive the proper medication.Backgroundimage of: magnify glassWe’ve discussed the different names a single medication has and how it pertains to different people through the development of that drug. We learned that the chemical name of a drug indicates a drug’s chemistry or molecular structure, which is helpful for someone working to develop new medications in a lab. The generic and brand names are then chosen and undergo scrutiny and approval from agencies like the FDA and WHO. As we prepare for this week’s assignment, let’s delve a little deeper into the naming of pharmaceutical drugs, particularly generic names chosen. We’ll cover how these drugs might offer clues to their function or hint at potential adverse effects. Names According to UseEven if you’ve never taken a Latin class, you’ve likely heard of connections between the dead language and our everyday communication. Greek and Latin roots, like aqua which refers to water, make up vocabulary like aquarium. This same idea can be applied to the generic or non-proprietary names of drugs.The job of finding names that offer clues to a drug’s function lies with the United States Adopted Names Council (USAN). The council is made up of the American Medical Association (AMA), the United States Pharmacopeia (USP), the American Pharmacists Association (APhA), the FDA, and the Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP). The USAN also works with the WHO to make sure that a created drug name can translate across the globe.The naming of drugs goes through this extensive scrutiny and review for patient safety. It’s estimated that over a million Americans fall ill, are injured, or even die because of errors with prescribing or dispensing of their medication.Part of these errors is because of LASAs, which stands for look-alikes, sound-alikes. Creating names that are clearly distinct from each other is part of ensuring the safety of patients and a measure to prevent any mix-ups or errors in prescribing medicine or how much someone should take (Scutti, 2016).Among all these organizations, the council works to take the complex chemistry of a drug and boil it down to standard stems that make up the prefix, suffix, or infix of the generic name. Let’s look at an example: the stem -oxetine is often associated with antidepressants:Image of: generic and brand names of antidepressantsAll these drugs share the same stem -oxetine and all function as “selective serontonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI)” (“What’s in a Generic Name?” 2017).Let’s look at another example. A drug that is a beta-blocker is used to control heart rhythm by reducing blood pressure. Their stem is -olol.Image of: generic and brand names of beta-blockersWhile drugs with this stem can be used for many different reasons, a healthcare worker familiar with these stems might see the -olol stem and recognize these drugs are primarily used to treat heart failure, cardiac arrhythmias, and hypertension. At the same time, a healthcare worker might see the stem and also understand the adverse effects a patient might experience from taking these medications: bradycardia (abnormally slow heart rate) and hypotension (abnormally low blood pressure).Drug Names According to ClassificationNot only can a drug’s function or use be found in the clues of its name, but it can help define the classifications of drugs. A classification of a drug refers to the groups of drugs that share similarities. According to the FDA, there are a few methods that help determine these groups or classifications (“Pharmacologic Class,” 2018):Mechanism of Action (MOA)Physiologic Effect (PE)Chemical Structure (CS)The mechanism of action can refer to the “specific biochemical reaction that occurs when you take a drug,” and the physiologic effect refers to the body’s response to the drug (Bihari, 2020).The WHO also created a multi-layered method for classifying pharmaceutical drugs called the Anatomical Therapeutic Chemical Classification System (ATC). It’s broken into five levels (Bihari, 2020):Level One: Describes the organ system the drug treatsLevel Two: Describes the drug’s therapeutic effectLevel Three: Describes the mechanism or mode of actionLevel Four: Describes the general chemical properties of the drugLevel Five: Describes the chemical components that make up the drug (essentially the chemical name of the drug)Thirdly, the USP (the United States Pharmacopeia) also has a broad list of therapeutic classes. This classification system is based on:Therapeutic useMechanism of actionFormulary classification (a formulary refers to a list of drugs covered within a healthcare plan)This broad classification produces almost fifty classes for a drug to fall under:Image of: therapeutic classesFor more information on Mnemonic Devices check on:

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