Intended for healthcare professionals


Product names, proper claims? More ethical issues in the marketing of drugs

BMJ 1996; 313 doi: (Published 21 December 1996) Cite this as: BMJ 1996;313:1627
  1. Soren Holm, senior research fellowa,
  2. Martyn Evans, university fellowb
  1. a Department of Medical Philosophy and Clinical Theory, University of Copenhagen, DK-2200, Copenhagen N, Denmark
  2. b Centre for Philosophy and Health Care, University of Wales Swansea, Swansea SA2 8PP
  1. Correspondence to: Dr Holm.


    Objectives: To analyse the explicit or implicit claims embodied in the proprietary names of pharmaceutical products.

    Design: Linguistic and ethical analysis of proprietary names of pharmaceutical products marketed in the UK and in Denmark.

    Results and conclusions: A number of drugs have names that allude to their indication or actions. Such names may be problematic, however, because they often promise more than the drug can deliver. Taking into account, firstly, the type of allusion and its degree of sophistication, and, secondly, the seriousness of the indication may help in identifying the most problematic drug names.

    Key messages

    • Good ethical reasons exist to question names that imply actions far beyond the known pharmacological actions of a given product

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