What's in a (drug) name? We asked the #FierceMadness champs

It's been a long three weeks since the 2015 Drug Name Tournament came to a close, leaving a void in our FiercePharmaMarketing newsletters and in our hearts. But this week, we're back to answer some of the all-important tournament questions: Where did the name for champion Vimizim come from? And what made it so successful?

BioMarin's Jill Jepson

To start at the beginning, you have to go back more than a couple of years, Jill Jepson, an executive marketing director at proud Vimizim parent BioMarin ($BMRN), told FiercePharmaMarketing. The drug-naming process starts about three years before approval--sometimes even before a med's Phase III trials. Then there's researching, brainstorming, submitting to regulatory authorities and health agencies, trademarking and so on. When all is said and done, you'll have a few names left standing. If you're lucky, that is.

"Pharma companies don't really like to have really odd names like that," Jepson explained. "There's just not a lot of options."

BioMarin did wind up with a few options, though--including the similar Vimizyme, which would have borrowed from a "common way to name an enzyme replacement therapy," Jepson said--a la the company's MPS VI med Naglazyme. Also on the table was Condrozyme--which played on "enzyme replacement" and also "chondrocyte," because the drug's target, Morquio A syndrome, affects the bones. Then there was Zymoquizyme, which combined "enzyme" and "Morquio."

To narrow it down, the Vimizim team involved the whole company at two different stages. "We did a Survey Monkey type of thing and let them rank based on different categories, and add their commentary," Jepson said (meaning #FierceMadness was not Vimizim's first win in an online popularity contest).

Turns out, the BioMarin voters and the #FierceMadness voters had some of the same things to say in favor of the moniker. Employees noted that it embodied "vim and vigor," and that "'V' is for 'victory,'" Jepson said. And that was just what the company wanted.

"For us, it started with really understanding our patients," she said. "We wanted the name to be a name that was going to resonate with them and kind of relate to who they are. … Vim and vigor and exuberance and passion for life are key personality traits of people that have Morquio A, and frankly it's also the goal of our therapy to improve upon that."

On top of that, Vimizim's only vowels are "I," which Jepson said stands for strength and empowerment of the individual.

And the icing on the cake? "I think maybe we were a little lucky that the 'vim' and the 'zim' rhyme," she said. "It points to an ideal combination of synergy and harmony within a name--together they can do great things in life."

So how far can the naming magic take a drug? Has the award-winning tag had any effect on Vimizim's sales?

Probably not, Jepson acknowledged, especially since Vimizim is the only FDA-approved enzyme replacement therapy that addresses Morquio A's underlying deficiencies. "It's a therapy that's something people need versus something people want," she said, though as she pointed out, a good title that fits patients' lifestyles and identities can help them feel good about a treatment and stay compliant.

When it comes down to it, though, "what really matters is the data and that you're changing outcomes," she said. If you're doing that, "then the name is gravy for sure."

-- Carly Helfand (email | Twitter)