International Nonproprietary Name
An International Nonproprietary Name (INN; also known as rINN, for recommended International Nonproprietary Name or pINN for proposed International Nonproprietary Name) is the official nonproprietary or generic name given to a pharmaceutical substance
Chemical substance
In chemistry, a chemical substance is a form of matter that has constant chemical composition and characteristic properties. It cannot be separated into components by physical separation methods, i.e. without breaking chemical bonds. They can be solids, liquids or gases.Chemical substances are...

, as designated by the World Health Organization
World Health Organization
The World Health Organization is a specialized agency of the United Nations that acts as a coordinating authority on international public health. Established on 7 April 1948, with headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, the agency inherited the mandate and resources of its predecessor, the Health...

 (WHO). The plethora of named proprietary preparations containing a given substance can lead to confusion about the identity of the active ingredient.
INNs facilitate communication by providing a standard name for each substance; they are designed to be unique and distinct so as to avoid confusion in prescribing. A similar role is played in chemistry
Chemistry is the science of matter, especially its chemical reactions, but also its composition, structure and properties. Chemistry is concerned with atoms and their interactions with other atoms, and particularly with the properties of chemical bonds....

 by IUPAC names, though those are less suited to common usage, being typically very long and unwieldy.

WHO issues INNs in English, Latin, French, Russian, and Spanish; Arabic and Chinese versions, although not included in the original scheme, are now also being issued.

Name stems

Drugs from the same therapeutic or chemical class are usually given names with the same stem
Word stem
In linguistics, a stem is a part of a word. The term is used with slightly different meanings.In one usage, a stem is a form to which affixes can be attached. Thus, in this usage, the English word friendships contains the stem friend, to which the derivational suffix -ship is attached to form a new...

. Stems are mostly placed word-finally, but in some cases word-initial stems are used. They are collected in a publication informally known as the Stem Book.

Examples are:
  • -coxib for COX-2 inhibitors, a type of anti-inflammatory drugs (e.g. celecoxib
    Celecoxib INN is a sulfa non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug and selective COX-2 inhibitor used in the treatment of osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, acute pain, painful menstruation and menstrual symptoms, and to reduce numbers of colon and rectum polyps in patients with familial...

  • -mab for monoclonal antibodies
    Monoclonal antibodies
    Monoclonal antibodies are monospecific antibodies that are the same because they are made by identical immune cells that are all clones of a unique parent cell....

     (e.g. infliximab
    Infliximab is a monoclonal antibody against tumour necrosis factor alpha . It is used to treat autoimmune diseases. Remicade is marketed by Janssen Biotech, Inc...

    ); see Nomenclature of monoclonal antibodies
    Nomenclature of monoclonal antibodies
    The nomenclature of monoclonal antibodies is a naming scheme for assigning generic, or nonproprietary, names to monoclonal antibodies. An antibody is a protein that is produced in B cells and used by the immune system of humans and other vertebrate animals to identify a specific foreign object like...

  • -olol for beta blocker
    Beta blocker
    Beta blockers or beta-adrenergic blocking agents, beta-adrenergic antagonists, beta-adrenoreceptor antagonists or beta antagonists, are a class of drugs used for various indications. They are particularly for the management of cardiac arrhythmias, cardioprotection after myocardial infarction ,...

    s (e.g. atenolol)
  • -oxetin for fluoxetine
    Fluoxetine is an antidepressant of the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor class. It is manufactured and marketed by Eli Lilly and Company...

     derivatives, a group of antidepressant
    An antidepressant is a psychiatric medication used to alleviate mood disorders, such as major depression and dysthymia and anxiety disorders such as social anxiety disorder. According to Gelder, Mayou &*Geddes people with a depressive illness will experience a therapeutic effect to their mood;...

  • -pril for ACE inhibitors (e.g. captopril
    Captopril is an angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitor used for the treatment of hypertension and some types of congestive heart failure. Captopril was the first ACE inhibitor developed and was considered a breakthrough both because of its novel mechanism of action and also because of the...

  • -vastatin for HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors, a group of cholesterol lowering agents (e.g. simvastatin
    Simvastatin is a hypolipidemic drug used to control elevated cholesterol, or hypercholesterolemia. Simvastatin is a member of the statin class of pharmaceuticals, is a synthetic derivate of a fermentation product of Aspergillus terreus.-Medical uses:The primary uses of simvastatin is for the...

  • io- for iodine
    Iodine is a chemical element with the symbol I and atomic number 53. The name is pronounced , , or . The name is from the , meaning violet or purple, due to the color of elemental iodine vapor....

     containing radiopharmaceuticals (e.g. iobenguane
    Iobenguane, also known as metaiodobenzylguanidine or mIBG, or MIBG is a radiopharmaceutical, used in a scintigraphy method called MIBG scan...


Linguistic discussion

The term stem is not used consistently in linguistics
Linguistics is the scientific study of human language. Linguistics can be broadly broken into three categories or subfields of study: language form, language meaning, and language in context....

. It has been defined as a form to which affix
An affix is a morpheme that is attached to a word stem to form a new word. Affixes may be derivational, like English -ness and pre-, or inflectional, like English plural -s and past tense -ed. They are bound morphemes by definition; prefixes and suffixes may be separable affixes...

es (of any type) can be attached. Under a different and apparently more common view, this is the definition of a root
Root (linguistics)
The root word is the primary lexical unit of a word, and of a word family , which carries the most significant aspects of semantic content and cannot be reduced into smaller constituents....

, while a stem consists of the root plus optional derivational
Derivation (linguistics)
In linguistics, derivation is the process of forming a new word on the basis of an existing word, e.g. happi-ness and un-happy from happy, or determination from determine...

 affixes, meaning that it is the part of a word to which inflection
In grammar, inflection or inflexion is the modification of a word to express different grammatical categories such as tense, grammatical mood, grammatical voice, aspect, person, number, gender and case...

al affixes are added. INN stems employ the first definition, while under the more common alternative they would be described as roots.

Name changes

A number of modifications are made to British Approved Name
British Approved Name
A British Approved Name is the official non-proprietary or generic name given to a pharmaceutical substance, as defined in the British Pharmacopoeia...

s and other older nonproprietary names. This is to ensure similar pronunciation across major languages:
  • ae and oe are replaced by e
  • ch is replaced by c
  • ph is replaced by f
  • th is replaced by t
  • y is replaced by i

Comparison of naming standards

INN: paracetamol
Paracetamol INN , or acetaminophen USAN , is a widely used over-the-counter analgesic and antipyretic . It is commonly used for the relief of headaches and other minor aches and pains and is a major ingredient in numerous cold and flu remedies...

British Approved Name
British Approved Name
A British Approved Name is the official non-proprietary or generic name given to a pharmaceutical substance, as defined in the British Pharmacopoeia...

United States Adopted Name
United States Adopted Name
United States Adopted Names are unique nonproprietary names assigned to pharmaceuticals marketed in the United States. Each name is assigned by the USAN Council, which is co-sponsored by the American Medical Association , the United States Pharmacopeial Convention , and the American Pharmacists...

Other generic names: N-acetyl-p-aminophenol, APAP, p-acetamidophenol, acetamol, ...
Proprietary names: Tylenol
Tylenol is a North American brand of drugs advertised for reducing pain, reducing fever, and relieving the symptoms of allergies, cold, cough, and flu. The active ingredient of its original, flagship product, paracetamol , is marketed as an analgesic and antipyretic...

, Panadol, Panamax, Perdolan, Calpol, Doliprane, Tachipirina, Ben-u-ron, Atasol, Adol, ...
IUPAC name: N-(4-hydroxy
A hydroxyl is a chemical group containing an oxygen atom covalently bonded with a hydrogen atom. In inorganic chemistry, the hydroxyl group is known as the hydroxide ion, and scientists and reference works generally use these different terms though they refer to the same chemical structure in...

Acetamide is an organic compound with the formula CH3CONH2. It is the simplest amide derived from acetic acid. It finds some use as a plasticizer and as an industrial solvent...

External links

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