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Proprietary Names 

Proprietary Names

Margaret A. Winker

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Proprietary Names

The manufacturer’s name for a drug (or other product) is called a proprietary name or brand name.1(p15) Proprietary names use initial capitals, with a few exceptions (eg, pHisoHex). JAMA and the Archives Journals do not use the trademark symbol (™) or the registered trademark symbol (®) because capitalization indicates the proprietary nature of the name (see also 5.6.16, Legal and Ethical Considerations, Intellectual Property: Ownership, Access, Rights, and Management, Trademark). The International Trademark Association has information about specific trademarks and may be reached at or International Trademark Association, 1133 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10036.

Proprietary names for drugs often differ between countries (for example, nifedipine initially was marketed as Procardia in the United States and Adalat in Europe). Most US proprietary names are listed in the Physicians' Desk Reference5 and USP Dictionary1 and are cross-referenced to their USAN name. Unlike the nonproprietary name, the proprietary name does not undergo a coordinated international effort to provide consistent naming. One example is the proprietary name Bextra, which is the brand name for both valdecoxib (a cyclooxygenase 2 inhibitor type of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug) in the United States and bucindolol (a β-blocker not approved in the United States) in Europe.9 Even when the same brand name does not refer to different drugs in different countries, a drug is often marketed under different brand names in different countries. Therefore, because the medical literature is read internationally and confusion about the intended drug could lead to patient harm, the nonproprietary name should always be used and the proprietary name should almost never be used in the medical literature.

The exceptions to this rule are reports of adverse events that might be unique to a specific product formulation, or comparison of a generic formulation of a drug with the drug that was first approved. When both the nonproprietary and proprietary names are used in text, the nonproprietary name should appear first, with the proprietary name capitalized and in parentheses. Because proprietary drugs and manufacturers are listed in the Physicians' Desk Reference and other sources, the manufacturer does not need to be listed after the proprietary name.

The lot of penicillin G potassium (Pentids) was inspected and found to meet the industry production standards.

Proprietary names may be used in questionnaires when the individuals responding may be unfamiliar with the nonproprietary name or when the specific proprietary product is important; in these cases the exact wording of the question should be maintained, but the nonproprietary name should still be provided.

Parents were asked, “Have you ever given your child Tylenol [acetaminophen, paracetamol] or products containing Tylenol?”

Herbals and “natural” products generally do not have INNs. Whenever possible, the nonproprietary name (as listed in the USP Dictionary or the PDR for Nonprescription Drugs and Dietary Supplements, for example) should be used. For some proprietary formulations that comprise a blend of ingredients, however, the proprietary name may be the only way to refer to the formulation. (See also 15.4.15, Herbals and Dietary Supplements.)

The authors used mass spectrometry to analyze samples from a bottle of Niagra Actra-Rx and a bottle of Actra-Rx (Body Basics) for the presence of sildenafil.

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