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May 30, 1977

New Names for Drugs: What is USAN?

JAMA. 1977;237(22):2413-2414. doi:10.1001/jama.1977.03270490053031

Readers sometimes express a curiosity about the reasons for supporting editorial choices of material, particularly of features that regularly appear in journals over a long period of time. The New Names column (see p 2421), providing information on the formal selection of nonproprietary names for new drugs, is a JAMA column that has appeared monthly, virtually without interruption, since 1961. What editorial decision supports the regular publication of the New Names column?

Names for drugs are one of the tools of the health professions—a means by which physicians convey their therapeutic decisions to colleagues, pharmacists, nurses, and, increasingly, to patients as well.

Although the American Medical Association has been involved in the selection of nonproprietary names for drugs since 1911, it became evident during the Kefauver hearings of the early 1960s that neither its participation nor the selected names had received adequate publicity. Thus, one purpose of the New Names