english.prescrire.org > Spotlight > Archives : 2015 > International nonproprietary names (INNs): participating in their creation, in order to make them safer

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International nonproprietary names (INNs): participating in their creation, in order to make them safer

Since 2007, Prescrire has taken part in the World Health Organization’s public consultations on international nonproprietary names, with the aim of making INNs safer.

International Nonproprietary Names (INN), unlike brand names, allow a pharmaceutical substance to be identified in the same way everywhere in the world.

The INN, the drug’s real name, often makes it possible better to understand and retain the name of a substance, thanks to key information segments (common stems).

The creation of an INN is therefore crucial for the clear understanding of a drug and for its safe use. INNs are created by the World Health Organization (WHO), based on a methodical approach. During the process, the proposed INNs are submitted for public consultation.

Since 2007, Prescrire has been participating in the WHO’s six-monthly INN public consultations, with the aim of helping to make them safer.

During the period 2007-2014, the Prescrire team made a critical analysis of 1016 proposed INNs. The main problems identified were: risks of confusion with other INNs or common stems; various obstacles to the clear understanding of the proposed INNs especially resulting from an ambiguity over the common stems; similarities with brand names that could result in error.
Prescrire formulated numerous comments. Some objections were taken into account by the WHO INN programme.

Signalling risks of confusion with regard to a proposed INN at this early stage makes it easier to substitute a new name, before the commercialisation of the substance concerned and the use of its name.

Critical examination of INNs proposed by the WHO has proved valuable in improving the quality and safety of INNs.

©Prescrire 1 June 2015

"How INNs are created" Prescrire Int 2015; 24 (161): 162-165. (Pdf, subscribers only).

Download the full review.
Pdf, subscribers only

For more information:

The INN, a drug's real name
(Advancing healthcare

Prescrire's responses to
the WHO's consultations
on proposed INNs
(Advancing healthcare

Obstacles to the universal
application of INNs
Prescrire Int 2014 ;
23 (153) : 248-251.
Pdf, subscribers only

Exceptions to and deviations
from the INN common stem system
Prescrire Int 2013 ;
22 (138) : 138-139.
Pdf, subscribers only