Deciphering Generic Drug Names

Have you ever noticed there is sometimes a learning curve associated with the pronunciation of new generic drug names? Fortunately there are references which provide useful feedback about name stems (word blocks used in the construction of the generic name such as prefixes and suffixes). One such reference is the NLM Drug Information Portal which provides a comprehensive list of most official generic names such as those labelled as USAN (United States Adopted Name).

The table below is a much abbreviated excerpt from this list which reveals useful insights by breaking these often confusing names into their components parts. The table has columns for the Generic Name Stem, a Stem Definition, and an Example. Each stem has hyphens at one or both ends of its text to show that it is found at the beginning, end, or in the middle of a generic name.

Information in this table has been adapted from the U. S. National Library of Medicine with information which was updated in June of 2018.