No, I promise. I have already written two posts on the inexplicable naming of prescription medicines and, although the third time can be the charm, it can also be “I’m not reading this anymore.”
Despite residual misgivings, I have come to terms with the fact that these laughable prescription medicine names have a memorable, syllabically meaningless objective.
It is undeniable that the gibberish names the pharmaceutical companies give their products are at least more memorable to the than their generic or their actual chemical names. That’s why they create them. Fine. Except I still don’t understand why the prescription medicine called JUBLIA could not just as easily be called HARVONI and the prescription medicine called HARVONI could not just as easily be called AFLURIA.
I mean what the heck difference would it make?
But forget about that, it’s done and it’s over. I am, however, left with an equally troubling concern:
How do they come up with the meaningless names they give to the medicines?
Why do I care about that? What is my generic interest?
At first I thought simply, “It’s a funny thing, silly names for prescription medicines.”
“Silly but helpful.”
Right. Because you don’t want,
“I really need this medicine.”
“What’s it called?”
“‘Psyllosibo’… I don’t remember.”
The goofy names seemed hilarious to me. Absurdity is always funny – write that down. So that’s why I wrote about it.
Or so I believed.
The intensity of my feelings, however, suggested there was a deeper consideration. I felt viscerally angry about these ridiculous medicine names. Not primarily because they were ridiculous – “ridiculous” is good for business.
I was angry because they were arbitrary.
Imagined Pharmaceutical Company “Pitch Session”:
“No. But “ZYLINGA”. Now you’ve got something!”
To provide the link between the dopey medicine names and my irrational hostility to them, I need to explain that, in my “Imagined Pharmaceutical Pitch Session”, “LYZINGA” was pitched by a pharmaceutical company employee and “ZYLINGA” was suggested by the boss.
That’s what annoyed me. Not “What it is.” But “Who gets to decide?”
What did that remind me of? (This is like psychoanalysis… I imagine, having never experienced psychoanalysis – “free association” till I get to the answer.)
What it reminded me of was every time I sat in a rewrite room and I pitched something that the show runner shot down, only to pitch an alternative that was no better and possibly worse but it got into the script because the person who pitched it was indisputably in charge.
Boy, that made me angry!
That gnawing inequity not only was potentially damaging to the final product – meaning it made the show worse – it was essentially rewarding a bully, which infuriated me, while dismissing the efforts of a now dispirited underling, which infuriated me even more. (Which led to my saying, “I would rather be a boss than have a boss. Later, when I became a boss, I had a somewhat different perspective.)
That explains my irateness about the pharmaceutical naming – not the absurdity but the method of deciding. When the thing you are deciding upon is meaningless, the final decision is entirely arbitrary.
And when it comes to “arbitrary”, “Power” inevitably prevails.
Now you might be thinking,
“You know what, Earlo? This sounds an awful lot like ‘sour grapes’. A person in charge, who is generally more experienced and more talented than you are shoots down your suggestion and replaces it with his (or her) own. It’s been twenty or more years now. It might be time to get over it.”
Okay… maybe… I respond, in partial concession. But you have never been in a room where we are pitching “character names” and you pitch the name “Susan” and the show runner shrieks “Susan!” as if they cannot now fathom the reason they hired you and are seriously considering letting you go. They then pitch “Susanne”, which goes immediately into the script.
And don’t get me started on “locations.”
“‘Buffalo!’ Are you kidding me? You might as well say ‘Cleveland!”
They pitch “Chicago”, and on we go.
“LYZINGA” – “ZYLINGA”?
It is exactly the same thing.
I was angry about that then, and I am angry about it now– not for myself this time, but for the pharmaceutical company peons caught in a similar dispiriting position.
Believe me, LYZINGA is just as good as ZYLINGA.
And, having gotten to the source of my irritation, I shall not mention this matter again.