What effect does the name of a drug have?

Easy-to-pronounce drug names lead to increased dosing
The name of medication has a significant impact on the patient's usage behavior. However, according to a recent study by psychologists from the University of Cologne, this also harbors the risk of excessive dosing of medicines that have a particularly easy to pronounce name.

From previous studies it was already known that drug names that can be pronounced fluently without great difficulty are becoming increasingly popular among patients, report Simone Dohle and colleagues from the Social Cognition Center Cologne (SoCCCo) at the University of Cologne. In their current study, the scientists were able to prove that the name of the drug name also influences the dosage behavior, which can be associated with considerable risks. The researchers published their study results in the journal "Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied".

Are potentially risky medical behaviors encouraged?
In their current study, the scientists investigated possible correlations between the so-called “processing fluency” (ease of information processing) of drug names and the dosage behavior of the patients. According to the researchers, the question also arose whether a high processing liquid would lead to potentially dangerous medical behavior. Two controlled experiments have shown that the drug dose used increases with easily pronounced drug names.

Increased dosage with simple names
While complicated drug names are more likely to be associated with an increased risk of dangerous side effects by patients, easy-to-pronounce names seem to promote trivialization of the drugs. The Cologne psychologists' first experiment showed, for example, "that medications with a fluent name are perceived as safer than those with a disfluent name," report Dohle and colleagues. This effect has led to an increased drug dosage in both synthetically manufactured and herbal drugs. In a second experiment, the researchers found that people choose a higher drug dose for themselves and for a child if the drug bears a fluent name.

Far-reaching effects of the drug names
"Our results indicate that the name of a drug is a strong factor influencing dosage behavior," the scientists emphasize. Apparently unspeakable drugs are considered riskier, while easy-to-pronounce names are associated with more gentle drugs. According to the latest study results, this also has an impact on the dosage of the medication used. Therefore, "drugs with strong side effects should have complicated names", the study leader is quoted by the "Süddeutsche Zeitung". This can reduce the risk of patients taking too much of it.

Complicated drug names deter you
The experts explain the effect of the drug name on the dosage with the ease of information processing, which is much more difficult with a bulky drug name. This tends to result in rejection due to the increased information requirements. In the case of catchy, easy-to-pronounce drug names, however, the opposite effect can be found. (fp)

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