International Non-proprietary Names (INN): A Universal Language for Drugs
International Non-proprietary Names (INNs) are the standardized, generic names assigned to drugs by the World Health Organization (WHO). These unique, non-branded names aim to:
- Prevent confusion: INNs avoid the potential for confusion caused by brand names, which can vary depending on the country and manufacturer. This is especially important for ensuring safe and effective medication use, particularly when patients need to access medication across borders.
- Promote transparency: INNs provide a transparent and neutral way to identify drugs based on their active ingredients, facilitating communication and collaboration among healthcare professionals, researchers, and policymakers.
- Facilitate access to essential medicines: INNs promote generic drug availability and affordability, as they are not tied to brand marketing and pricing strategies. This can improve access to essential medicines for people in low- and middle-income countries.
How are INNs chosen?
A group of experts at the WHO called the INN Expert Committee carefully selects INNs based on several criteria:
- Uniqueness: The name should be unique and not resemble existing drug names or trademarks to avoid confusion.
- Informativeness: The name should provide some information about the drug’s pharmacological class or therapeutic action. For example, the INN “metformin” indicates its use for treating diabetes.
- Pronounceability and memorability: The name should be easy to pronounce and remember for healthcare professionals and patients alike.
Benefits of using INNs:
- Improved patient safety: INNs reduce the risk of medication errors due to confusion between brand names.
- Enhanced research and development: INNs facilitate research and development of generic drugs by providing a standardized reference name.
- Strengthened healthcare systems: INNs promote efficient and transparent drug procurement and distribution within healthcare systems.
Examples of INNs and their corresponding brand names:
- INN: Metformin
- Brand names: Glucophage, Gluformin, Fortamet
- INN: Salbutamol
- Brand names: Ventolin, Albuterol, ProAir
- INN: Amoxicillin
- Brand names: Amoxil, Trimox, Amoxil Bid
Using INNs is an important step towards ensuring safe, effective, and affordable access to medicines for everyone.
- World Health Organization: International Non-proprietary Names (INNs)
- International Non-proprietary Names Database
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