english.prescrire.org > Spotlight > Archives : 2011 > Prescriptions using the international nonproprietary name (INN): good practice that is still all too rare in France

Spotlight: Archives

Every month, the subjects in Prescrire’s Spotlight.

2011 : 1 | 30 | 60

Prescriptions using the international nonproprietary name (INN): good practice that is still all too rare in France

In France, too few doctors use the international nonproprietary name (INN) when prescribing drugs.

The international nonproprietary name (INN) is designated by the World Health Organization and is a drug’s real name. The INN is a universal, independent nomenclature system that fosters good practice. Using the INN focuses healthcare professionals’ attention on a drug’s therapeutic properties and reduces the risk of confusion, especially for patients. According to the federation of French mutual insurers, La Fédération nationale de la mutualité française (FNMF), in mid-2010, only 12.4% of drugs prescribed in France were prescribed using their INNs: the rate was 13.7% among general practitioners and 5.2% among specialists.

To make the practice of using INNs the norm among health professionals requires an effort by all concerned, starting with teaching staff at medical schools, especially in teaching hospitals, and by the health authorities and the national health insurance organisations which disseminate official information on drugs.

Initial medical training still tends to refer to drugs’ brand names rather than their INN, and does not actively encourage the use of INNs when prescribing. In a study carried out in 2006 among Prescrire subscribers, only 33% of the respondents stated that drugs were referred to using their INN during the academic part of their training as medical or pharmacy students, only 28% during internships in outpatients departments, and 2.6% during hospital internships.

Much remains to be done before prescriptions using the INN become the rule: thinking INN means thinking first and foremost about the drug’s active ingredients; it helps healthcare professionals memorise drug categories; it means focusing on the best treatment for the patient.

And this should become best practice with regard to all drugs, generic or otherwise.

©Prescrire 1 July 2011

"INN-based prescribing: a good practice not widely adopted in France" Prescrire Int 2011; 20 (118): 191. (pdf, subscribers only)

Download the full review.
Pdf, subscribers only