What’s in a Name?

By Anny Goldman, Adherence Manager at Care for Life, admin of Adherence to medical treatment & healthy lifestyle Facebook page
I recently posted a question in one of the “women” oriented closed groups on Facebook, asking the opinion of my female friends whether a man’s name is a factor they consider while deciding whether to go on a date with him or not? Most women who replied declared that, “yes”, a man’s name is indeed a factor. It means that even though a certain guy could be your McDreamy, if the name doesn’t suit, he doesn’t stand a chance.
Names also play a role in other areas of our life. Take the OTC (over the counter medications) for example. Assuming we choose a medicine without a physician’s or neighbor’s recommendation,  hat parameters influence our decision to choose one in favor of another? Do we choose according to brand, price, package design, or is it the drug’s name?
One of the most common cognitive biases comes from how easy it is to pronounce a name. The more complicated it is to pronounce, the more it scares people. This phenomenon was the focus of  several research studies examining a person’s understanding of certain words and their corresponding reaction. The studies showed that there is a direct link between less familiar or difficult-to- pronounce words and the feeling of danger or the perception of something sophisticated and innovative. The Cho study from 2015 showed that when a patient is browsing through the OTC medicine aisle and comparing the alternatives, new drugs with easier to pronounce names may be evaluated negatively if his or her primary goal is to avoid any side effects. However, if his or her primary goal is to buy an advanced drug (which is commonly associated with being faster, stronger, and more effective, as typically described in “advanced formula” drug advertisements and product descriptions), then new drugs with harder to pronounce names may be evaluated more positively than those with easier to pronounce names.

The drug’s name triggers feelings or emotional responses (AFFECT), much like a man’s or a woman’s name. There are two types of affects that can help predict medication adherence: 1) the affect related to the illness and 2) the affect related to (taking) the medication. The negative affect regarding the illness might increase adherence. In this case, the patient is likely to want to avoid the illness and perceive medication as a means to do so. However, if the negative affect is connected to the medication then the result could be a decrease in adherence, meaning that the patient might want to avoid the medication all together.

In most cases, drugs have 3 types of names: chemical, generic and commercial. And, there are currently regulatory guidelines in place by the FDA and others, which dictate acceptable choices. In 2015, Tirrell and his colleagues published an article presenting the trends of “legally” naming commercial drugs. Did you know that Z, the least popular letter in English, shows up 19X more in drug names?

I admit that names have meaning to me too and leave a certain taste. However, if the product is indeed high quality, then really, what’s the problem? If you don’t like the name, then assign it a personal nickname, and all problems are solved. Open your mind, expand your horizons, and try to look past it. After all, your health is what’s important and really, what’s in a name?