Drug names are not normal words. They aren’t always pronounced the way they look, and sounding them out doesn’t always work. The two resources I use most often are the USP Dictionary Online (USAN) and the FDA’s website.
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Whether you’re a student delivering a presentation, a pharmacist doing some CE and curious how to pronounce a new drug name, a pharmacy technician who has to pronounce a drug name at patient pick-up counter, or a voice actor prepping a script, do your research, and use reliable sources for pronouncing drug names. Pronouncing drug names correctly will help you feel confident, avoid criticism, earn trust, improve safety, and feel less frustrated.
Researching pronunciations on the internet can be time-consuming and lead to the wrong answer. If you get a pronunciation from more than one source, and 2 or more don’t match, you will end up guessing. Evaluate your sources carefully. What you find might be crowd-sourced, computer-generated, someone’s best guess, or the real deal.
I strongly recommend the USP Dictionary Online for generic drug name pronunciations.
Brand names are typically shorter and easier to pronounce. Unfortunately, there is no dictionary for pronouncing them. Brand name drug pronunciations are NOT in the USP Dictionary. Resources I recommend for brand-name drug pronunciations are:
- Medication guides (FDA Medication Guides Search page)
- Package inserts (Drugs@FDA Search page)
- The drug’s website
- A drug rep for the product
- An experienced pharmacology professor or an experienced healthcare professional, like a pharmacist. If it’s an older drug, speak to someone with 20+ years clinical experience.
- Contact the drug sponsor’s Drug Information Department.
Levomilnacipran is generic for Fetzima.
LEE voe mil NA si pran is generic for Fetzima.
See how it’s broken down into the syllables, and the syllables that are emphasized are capitalized? “NA” has the primary emphasis. “LEE” has the secondary emphasis. Emphasize “NA” more than “LEE.”
Mirena (Mur AY nah, with a long “a”) is a levonorgestrel-releasing intrauterine system.
Learn the intended pronunciations from the source who named the drugs instead of making a guess and passing it around like the “telephone game.” Drug names are weird for a reason. Let’s use them the way they were intended to be pronounced! There’s a difference between wanting to BE right because you like how someone says a drug name on YouTube and wanting to GET IT RIGHT by using the correct pronunciation. Let’s GET IT RIGHT!
If you need help with drug name pronunciations, I have an online course at kimnewlove.com called Pronounce Drug Names Like a Pro. Check that out for more information on breaking down complicated drug names. If you need private coaching, I can help. For example, if you’re a voice actor and have a list of drug names you need help with, contact me through my website https://www.thepharmacistsvoice.com.
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