appropriate name stem from a standardized list and be incorporated into the generic name to give clinicians some indication of the chemical and/or therapeutic characteristics of the drug (USAN, 2005). The official title of a medication is determined by the USP Expert Committee on Nomenclature using the nonproprietary name plus dosage, formulation, and route of administration.3 The proprietary or brand name is created by pharmaceutical companies to facilitate brand recognition and promote brand loyalty (Berman, 2004). The brand name for a drug may be different among countries, and drugs marketed by more than one pharmaceutical company may have more than one brand name (Hoffman and Proulx, 2003). Nevertheless, all drugs are promoted and marketed in the United States to providers and consumers under their brand name, although many providers and payers prefer to use the nonproprietary name.
Mixups resulting in medication errors can occur with either generic or brand names. In cases where the generic names are similar, the brand name can be used to differentiate products. Brand names are almost always easier to pronounce, spell, and remember than generic names (Cohen, 2002). The reverse is also true: similar brand names can be differentiated by using or including the generic name. In very rare cases the generic and brand names are similar for a particular drug. Thus, using both the generic and brand name is one of the easiest means of decreasing the likelihood of medication errors due to name confusion (Cohen, 2000; Hoffman and Proulx, 2003; Berman, 2004). It is particularly important to use both names when a drug has been involved in a name mix-up that led to an adverse event.