Marshall University researchers evaluate prescription drug names

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – A new study by researchers at Marshall University shows that prescription drug brand names are increasingly different from everyday American English, tracing measurable trends in letter selection.

The findings recently published in Exploratory research in clinical and social pharmacy found that the lThe letters A, V, X and Z are overrepresented in drug names while the letters E, H, T and S are underrepresented.

The researchers used letter frequency analyzes to assess the brand names of prescription drugs approved from 1985 to 2020 in the United States. They then compared the frequency of letters in brand names to a collection of English writing and the board game Scrabble scoring system.

“Considered the first study of its kind to test the hypothesis that prescription drug brand names are increasingly using unusual letters, this offers interesting and insightful insight into prescription drug branding,” said Ron Carico Jr., Pharm.D., MPH, Clinical Pharmacy Specialist at Marshall Health and lead author of the publication. “This manuscript also gives healthcare providers and the general public insight into how prescriptions are approved in the United States and is more fun and accessible than most research information.”

The authors note that prescription drug makers can try to create unique and memorable drug names. An ideal drug name could also have positive associations. These pressures may be what drives manufacturers toward measurable trends in drug names.

In addition to Carico, tthe online journal article, available at, was co-written by Keaton Kaplan, Pharm.D., Kyler Gator Hazelett, Pharm.D., Megan Dillon, Pharm.D., and Kelly Melvin, MD


Marshall Health is the clinical enterprise of Marshall University and its Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine. Marshall Health brings together a comprehensive care team of 425 providers in 75 primary and specialty care areas. As part of a university health system, Marshall Health is committed to improving access to care throughout southern West Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky through advanced technology and research that benefits its patients and the communities it serves. To learn more, visit

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