How Big Pharma Keeps You Calmer
Millions of people in this country get up every morning and put something with a funny name in their mouths - in 2009 (the last year figures were available), some 39.1 million prescriptions for antidepressants were written in the UK; and while I believe this indicates a mass hysteria (among doctors and pharmacists as much as their patients and customers), I’m minded to investigate the queered semantics of proprietary drugs.
Seroxat is the name paroxetine - a selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitor (or SSRI), and the most popular antidepressant pushed globally - is marketed under in the UK but in the US it’s called Paxil and in Australia either Aropax or Lumin. I love to imagine the blue-sky sessions at which drug marketers dream up these monikers. I picture them sitting around featureless lozenges of beige MDF flinging these mangled bits of verbiage back and forth: “Grandax!” one snaps, “No, Pildernox …” a second pitches in. I wonder what rationale decides them on one repellent bit of gobbledegook over another - but not for long because it’s all rather obvious.
Take “Seroxat”; well, the prefix “Ser” it shares with such suitable mental ascriptions as “serene”, “serious” and “servile”; while the stem “ox” is de rigueur for all sorts of drug names (along with “ix”, “ax”, “ex” and even “ux”). The prolific use of Xs in drug names is probably representative of no fewer than three buried intentions on the part of the marketers. One is to evoke “Rx” - the abbreviation of the Latin “recipe” (“take”) used in the US for a prescription - in the mind of the miserable. The second is to introduce a note of futurism - such syllables rarely occurring in English, they tend to imply a shiny, happy realm of neologism. And the third is to subtly imply the near-alliterative and highly desirable state - to be relaxed.