Dayton, OH — Ever wonder who comes up with all those strange, yet catchy prescription drug names? Well meet 56-year-old Cisplatin Schweitzer of Dayton, OH who is responsible for over 150 of those names over the past 30 years. And his enterprise has made him millions.
“I didn’t have a background in pharmaceuticals or marketing, but I did have a knack for names ever since I was a kid,” said Mr. Schweitzer speaking from his Dayton home. “It probably had to do with me and my siblings’ names. My parents had a great sense of humor.”
Mr. Schweitzer said he and his two sisters all had odd names.
“Well, my older sister’s name is Idebenone, we called her Ibee for short, and my baby sister’s name is Xylometazoline, which I admit is a little weird. I suppose my parents started running out of ideas. We just called her Xylometazoline because we could never think of anything shorter.”
Despite his unique skills, Mr. Schweitzer had trouble finding a job right out of college.
“I was always a bit on the odd side. I couldn’t figure out what to do. I took a entry-level accounting job with PWC [accounting firm Pricewaterhousecoopers]. But it was really boring and I got fired for missing too many days. After trying a few other jobs, I finally ran into Daisy [Daisy Jimenez of GSK] and she loved my ideas.”
It was at that fateful meeting at a Philadelphia bar that Cisplatin struck up a conversation with VP of Product Marketing at the pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline or GSK. The young Schweitzer impressed the 34-year-old up and coming executive, and she offered him a job on the spot.
“Of course the first two drug product names I offered were those of my sister’s. And both were huge hits and Daisy offered me a promotion.”
Then the Wins Started Pouring In
It was only up from there. Over the next 20 years Mr. Schweitzer was responsible for what some in the industry call “blockbuster” names including:
- Pancuronium PO
- Anakinrara XR
The trick is to make the names sound both familiar and exotic. Kind of like how newscaster’s names have to sound like a mix between a college professor and a porn star.
However there are limits on the naming process. New drug names undergo a rigorous review by the FDA. Part of this review aims to ferret out new names that look or sound like existing drugs, a problem that contributes to thousands of medication errors each year. And not all of his names were approved.
“Look, not every time you step up to the plate, you get on base, let alone a home run. I definitely had my share of failures. But I learned from them. And I also learned how the government rigs the system.”
Some of Cisplatin’s most interesting failures include:
- Homocil- used to reduce homosexual urges in teens
- Analnytrain – a suppository used to treat intestinal inflammation
- Repressitol – a diet supplement
- Focusyn – for ADHD patients
And for all his successes, Mr. Schweitzer is not done.
“I have so many more ideas in my head. Currently I’m working on a new combination hair loss/erectile dysfunction drug. I’d tell you what they are, but then I’d have to shoot you.”