As a pharmacy student, it can be difficult to recall medicine names at the best of times. The wide variety of drugs, each married to their own galaxy of brand names, makes learning medicines a robust and challenging task.

You can, though, learn an awful lot about a medicine based on its name alone. Montelukast, a drug used to treat COPD, takes its name from Montreal – the city in which it was discovered. While the relevant fact may or may not hold interest, the name origin acts as an anchor to help you recall the medicine.

Below, we review 21 of the most popular drug name origins. I say popular because, though these explanations are thought to be true, some might just be added “after the fact”. In any case, this is a simple way for pharmacy students to grasp an extra layer of detail about some of the most common medicines used today.

Drug Name Origins

  1. Premarin – refers to “pregnant mares’ urine”, the source from which the conjugated estrogens are taken. Premarin is used to treat postmenopausal women suffering from hot flashes.
  2. Warfarin – takes its name from the acronym WARF – Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, and ‘-arin’, coming from the link between warfarin and coumarin.
  3. Morphine – takes its name from the Greek god of dreams, Morpheus.
  4. Montelukast – as we learned above, Montelukast, a drug used to treat COPD, takes its name from Montreal, the site of its discovery.
  5. Glucophage – the medicine whose active ingredient is metformin, a drug used to treat type 2 diabetes. The name Glucophage derives from the Greek to mean “glucose eater”.
  6. Halcion – the medicine whose active ingredient is triazolam; a drug used to treat severe insomnia. The name “Halcion” comes from the Greek concept of “calmness” – now most associated with calmness at sea.
  7. Lasix – refers to “last 6 hours”. Lasix is a medicine used to treat fluid build-up (its active ingredient is the drug, furosemide), with diuresis being complete within 6 hours.
  8. Nystatin – an antifungal medicine whose name derives from New York State Department; the developers of the drug having worked in that department during its discovery.
  9. Rapamune – whose active ingredient is sirolimus. The drug itself was first isolated from samples taken from Rapa Nui, the native name of what is called Easter Island.
  10. Valium – takes its name from the Latin word, “vale” – referring to “farewell / goodnight”. The active ingredient of Valium, diazepam, is used to treat a wide variety of conditions such as anxiety, seizures and muscle spasms.
  11. Emend – referring to “ending emesis”, or vomiting. The active ingredient of Emend is aprepitant, an NK1 receptor antagonist.
  12. Ursodiol – the active ingredient of which is ursodeoxycholic acid, a drug used to reduce gallstone formation. Ursodiol takes its name from “urso”, or “bear”, as bear bile contains the drug in question.
  13. Actigall – also contains the active ingredient ursodeoxycholic acid, though its name refers to “acting on the gallbladder”.
  14. Prevacid – its name referring to “preventing acid formation”. That’s because the active ingredient of Prevacid is lansoprazole, a proton-pump inhibitor.
  15. Ambien – takes its name from the Spanish to mean “Good morning!” (AM – morning and ‘bien’ – good). The active ingredient of Ambien is zolpidem.
  16. Fosamax – the active ingredient of which is alendronic acid. The name Fosamax comes from the Latin “os” to mean “bone” and “max”, to maximize its effect.
  17. Macrobid – takes its name from “Macro-“, referring to Macrodantin, and “-bid”, referring to the Latin for twice daily. The active ingredient of Macrodantin is the antibacterial drug, nitrofurantoin.
  18. Xarelto – the active ingredient of which is the anticoagulant medicine, rivaroxaban. Xarelto takes its name from factor ‘Xa’, the factor that rivaroxaban inhibits to impart its anticoagulant properties.
  19. Tylenol – takes its name from the chemical structure of acetaminophen (paracetamol) – N-aceTYL-para-aminoPHENOL.
  20. Lunesta – takes its name from “Luna”, the Latin word for the Moon. The active ingredient of Lunesta is eszopiclone, a drug used to treat insomnia.
  21. Flomax – a drug used in the treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia, a condition associated with limited urine output. The active ingredient of Flomax, Tamsulosin, is an alpha receptor blocker that maximizes urine flow, hence its brand name.

That’s about it for our drug name origins for today. Know any more?

Tweet us or comment on our Facebook page today. Check back to our pharmacy blog in future for even more facts on the medicines we all need to know.