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Our Favorite Pharmaceutical Brands of 2021

Welcome to Molecular Ideas, and thank you for sharing your time with us! Today, we have fun examining some of the most compelling names for novel pharmaceutical and biotechnology products from 2021, as well as the diseases that these new drugs treat.

Our Discussion at a Glance

  • Brand names for novel pharmaceutical products are critical for forming positioning in highly competitive existing markets and establishing the tone and tenor of novel markets with no existing treatments. However, the process of creating them is strenuous and all brands are closely scrutinized by the FDA prior to a drug's approval.

  • Our top five names were evaluated from the list of fifty approved novel pharmaceuticals from The FDA approved fifty novel drugs, up from the average of 46 approved novel drugs (2015 - 2021).

  • These names successfully imply emotional benefits using simple, straightforward construction. Many of them balance the nonproprietary ('generic') name of the drug with an emotional benefit to appeal to practitioners and patients alike.

Say My Name, Say My Name

It's been a while since we talked about brand name strategy. Since 2021 had its share of love and hate towards vaccine brand names, we thought it was a good time to look at some of the most effective pharmaceutical brand names of 2021. If you want to learn more about what makes an effective pharmaceutical brand, feel free to read our posts here and here.

Over fifty new pharmaceutical and biologic non-vaccine products were approved in 2021; our list of the top five names were for products developed by these companies.

Without further ado, here are our top five pharmaceutical brand names from 2021!

5) EVKEEZA™ (evinacumab-dgnb), from Regeneron Pharmaceuticals

The Name

The first name on our list is EVKEEZA™, which leverages the prefix of the nonproprietary name and the implication of ease via -eez. This may be to convey simplicity of the route of administration, since it is a treatment that is recommended to be taken once every four weeks. When compared to the standard treatments (including statins and non-statins like bempedoic acid and lomitapide) that have to be taken daily, this convenience can represent a major quality of life improvement.

The Disease

We've all heard of LDL (low-density lipoprotein) before. It's more commonly known as 'bad' cholesterol. While an essential part of maintaining specific cellular functions, this form of cholesterol can clog your blood vessels and lead to numerous complications when in abundance, including stroke and heart attacks. Mitigating this form of cholesterol can be achieved through changes in diet, exercise, and patient-specific medical advice - but it remains a challenge for those with genetic dispositions towards those who overproduce or fail to adequately break down this complex molecule.

One such condition is homozygous familial hypercholesterolemia, which is a genetic condition summarizing any handful of 2,000 different mutations in the LDLR gene. Simply put, patient's cells are limited in their ability to recognize and remove LDL from their bloodstream. This can cause dangerous plaque buildups as early as a patient's 40's and 50's. Early treatment can be the difference between life and sudden death.

The Company

Regeneron is an innovative biotechnology company focused on producing humanized monoclonal antibodies to treat a variety of diseases. Grounded in cutting-edge science, their platform technology took over twenty years of research before being validated through product approval by the FDA. Their current branded portfolio includes seven molecules across five key therapeutic areas.

Product Website

You can learn more about EVKEEZA™ from the product website here.

4) TEZSPIRE™ (tezepelumab-ekko), from AstraZeneca

The Name

Our second name leverages the same combination of tactics as our prior name to appeal to both practitioners and patients. The reference of the underlying molecule (tezepelumab-ekko) is meant to align with clinical shorthand that arises through disease awareness campaigns and scientific literature years before a drug's launch. This name clearly connotes the root for the patient benefit - inspiration. Given the debilitating nature of asthma, the implication that a drug can inspire a more active and hopeful lifestyle is not without its merits.

The Disease

The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the fundamental physiological and psychological importance of being able to breathe. Severe asthma includes prolonged attacks and does not respond to typical treatments. This can lead to patient hospitalization and use of highly potent secondary treatments that can lead to poor side effects.

Tezspire is a first-in-class biologic for severe asthma. It targets a the epithelial cytokine that functions as a catalyst at the top of the inflammatory cascade known as thymic stromal lymphopoietin (TSLP). By modulating the first switch in the cascade, it becomes possible to prevent downstream effects that contribute to difficulty breathing and other key clinical metrics.

The Company

If you haven't heard of AstraZeneca at this point, your quarantining efforts have probably gone a bit too well over the past two years. This pharmaceutical giant has developed one of the world's most successful COVID-19 vaccines. While not heavily adopted in the U.S. due to rare adverse events, over two billion doses have already been distributed around the world at a fraction of the cost of Pfizer's and Moderna's vaccines. The company has one of the most robust pipelines in the industry across several therapeutic areas. While they have a strong presence in oncology through blockbusters like ENHERTU and IMFIMZI, their non-oncology pipeline extends through the cardiovascular, respiratory, renal, rare disease, and infectious disease spaces.

Product Website

You can learn more about TEZSPIRE™ from the product website here.

3) AZSTARYS™ (dexmethylphenidate and serdexmethylphenidate), from Corium & Kempharm

The Name

This name toes the line between implication and claimed benefit beautifully, while remaining sensitive to their audience. AZSTARYS™ is indicated for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). The idea that a child can be a star - a principle performer, a victor, or a leader of their own life - is a powerful emotional image. The fact that the name is relatively easy to pronounce is important. Having children take their medicine can be difficult under normal circumstances, and consumers generally have difficulty engaging with a brand with a hard-to-pronounce name. This brings together the best of both worlds, which may distinguish it in a highly competitive space.

The Disease

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD, is a well-known behavioral condition that affects children and adults. As the name implies, the condition is typically characterized by attention difficulty, hyperactivity, and impulsiveness, which can contribute to difficulty in forming relationships and academic learning. Potentially identified as early as 1798 by Sir Alexander Crichton. It would take another 262 years before the American Psychiatric Association (APA) would recognize it as a mental disorder, and other ~20 years before it would be called ADHD. The condition has both physiological and behavioral treatments, including stimulants and various behavioral therapies. The effect of the condition on relationships cannot be understated, and can have profound impact on how a patient views themselves in the context of their work and world.

The Company

Here, we have a partnership between Corium and Kempharm. Corium is a CNS-focused biotechnology company known for partnering with proven specialty pharmaceutical producers in the U.S. Kempharm is one such company with a prodrug platform that limits drug abuse and improves bioavailability. Azstarys (dexmethylphenidate and serdexmethylphenidate) combines improved efficacy with a lower abuse rate. This is critical in this space - as is the importance of ensuring a smooth commercialization process. The two companies have had a bump or two in their partnership regarding milestone payments and company debt, the drug was approved this year by the FDA. ADHD medications accounted for $17.9 billion in revenue in 2019, with a 4% annual CAGR. Even if competitor prices drop in response to this new entrant, there's a lot of value to go around.

Product Website

You can learn more about AZSTARYS™ from the product website here.

2) ADBRY™ (tralokinumab-ldrm), from LEO Pharma

The Name

ADBRY™ is short and sweet, connoting the indication, atopic dermatitis, as it is commonly referred to as 'AD'. The -bry suffix (pronounced 'bree' or 'br-eye') has no apparent inherent meaning. This name is among the rare breed of two-syllable drug names.

The Disease

Dermatology is a challenging disease area, as it spans everything from adolescent acne to life-altering, debilitating skin conditions. Atopic Dermatitis (or 'AD' for short), is one of these debilitating, complex diseases in which the skin becomes chronically painful and/or itchy. While atopic dermatitis is partially caused by the typical suspects for skin disease - allergens, stress, and genetics - the most significant factor is arguably the misregulation of a patient's cytokines. These immunomodulatory chemicals control conditions under which inflammation arises. Inflammation is among the body's most simple and effective stopgaps against disease. By biochemically bombarding tissues and signaling for other immune system reinforcements, the body can successfully defend against pathogens and develop specialized immunity against diseases you encounter. Yet while often a critical part of the healing process, there are scenarios where the body does not adequately control the key signaling chemicals (cytokines). By failing to regulate them, the body falsely perceives infection or injury in a tissue. Over time, this continual assault can give rise to autoimmune disorders in particular tissues, like atopic dermatitis.

Patients suffering from moderate-to-severe forms of atopic dermatitis can suffer constant physical pain and be stigmatized for looking different than colleagues, Further, few treatments have been approved by the FDA for these cases, and the patient-specific nature of skin engenders additional complexity.

The Company

LEO Pharma is unique in that it focuses nearly exclusively on dermatological diseases and their underlying causes. The company is known for its strong competitive advantage in the form of dedicated therapeutic category expertise. Though headquartered in Ballerup, Denmark, this mid-cap pharmaceutical company has a sizable U.S. presence and a strong global pipeline. ADBRY™ (tralokinumab-ldrm) is the company's first foray into the monoclonal antibody space. The unique specificity of these molecules for their target have been shown to be effective in other therapeutic areas, including oncology (Keytruda™ by Merck and Opdivo™ by BMS), neurology, and others. In fact, the FDA approved their 100th monoclonal antibody treatment in 2021.

Product Website

You can learn more about ADBRY™ from the product website here.

1) NULIBRY™ (fosdenopterin), from Origin Biosciences

The Name

There's a special value in keeping drug names simple. Of course, that's often the most difficult task at hand due to exacting guidance from the FDA. While market and pre-submission regulatory research that can be used to quantify whether a name is promotional, brand name regulatory reviews remain a somewhat subjective exercise.

Nulibry (we're assuming the -bry suffix is pronounced 'br-eye' in one syllable) is focused around a single theme - nullifying the effect of the disease it treats.

The Disease

Molybdenum cofactor deficiency (MoCD) Type A is a tragic neurological disease that affects approximately one in every 100,000 to 200,000 infants worldwide. Molybdenum is known as a co-factor - an additional component to proteins that catalyze essential biochemical reactions. Failing to obtain (through diet and lifestyle) or produce (through genetic and metabolic illness) cofactors can give rise to any number of tragic conditions. In this case, the failure to produce molybdenum cofactor leads to seizures within a week of birth, causing downstream developmental complications and ultimately leading to death in early childhood.

The Company

An small, innovative biotechnology company under the BridgeBio umbrella, Origin Biosciences has been solely focused on developing on developing Nulibry (fosdenopterin) and raising awareness for early diagnosis of Molybdenum cofactor deficiency (MoCD) Type A to help parents address the disease early. Though founded in 2018, a deal to acquire the late-stage asset from Alexion Pharmaceuticals formed a pipeline that has already borne fruit.

Product Website

You can learn more about NULIBRY™ from the product website here.

By Any Other Name...

2021 was a respectable year for drug development and approvals, especially given the burdens of, and funding funneled towards managing COVID-19. The average number of novel pharmaceuticals approved since 2015 is 46. These five names comprise only a fraction of the 50 total approved novel pharmaceuticals and biologics this year. While not record-breaking on the surface, the industry performing around the 5-year average for drug approvals in spite of a global pandemic speaks to the resiliency of these therapeutic programs and the people who made them possible.

I've also linked FDA's current guidance on developing proprietary names for human prescription products here. That said, no guidance alone is sufficient to evaluate your name for approval viability. The partner agency behind the names listed above is Brand Institute. They're regularly acknowledged in industry press as "drug naming heavyweight[s]". In addition to exceptional creativity, they account for the many nuances of naming.

Finally, if you're interested in seeing the full list of pharmaceuticals approved by the FDA in 2021 (excluding vaccines), you can find it here.

Disclaimer: This post is not sponsored and does not constitute promotional action on behalf of or for the companies responsible for developing, manufacturing or commercializing these therapies. Further, I am not a medical expert. All information on the products mentioned below has been corroborated from other publicly available coverage and from product or company websites. Please always consult with your doctor to determine if these therapies are right for you.

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