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All drugs marketed in Europe are now known by their recommended International Non-proprietary (generic) Name (rINN). In the past, most publications in the UK used the now outdated British Approved Name (BAN). To aid understanding of the older literature, significant differences between BANs and rINNs are listed in Table 1. However, when the difference is simply, e.g. ‘f’ instead of ‘ph’, ‘e’ instead of ‘oe’, or ‘t’ instead of ‘th’, these generally have not been included.

In the USA, United States Adopted Names (USANs) take precedence over rINNs. USANs are also included in Table 1 where these differ significantly from rINNs.

Note: in the UK, the BANs adrenaline and noradrenaline are still used in conjunction with the corresponding rINNs, i.e. adrenaline (epinephrine) and noradrenaline (norepinephrine).

Care should be taken with proprietary drug names in different countries. Some proprietary names are similar in spelling or pronunciation but contain different drugs. Further, some products with identical proprietary names contain different drugs, e.g. Urex® in the USA contains methenamine but, in Australia, furosemide.1

Table 1  Drug names relevant to palliative care for which the rINN, BAN and/or USAN differ

  1. silica-activated dimeticone; known in some countries as activated dimethylpolysiloxane.
Alimemazine Trimeprazine Trimeprazine
Amobarbital Amylobarbitone  
Bendroflumethiazide Bendrofluazide Bendroflumethiazide
Benzylpenicillin   Penicillin G
Calcitonin (salmon) Salcatonin Calcitonin
Carmellose   Carboxymethylcellulose
Chlorphenamine Chlorpheniramine Chlorpheniramine
Clomethiazole Chlormethiazole  
Dexamfetamine Dexamphetamine Dextroamphetamine
Dextropropoxyphene   Propoxyphene
Dicycloverine Dicyclomine Dicyclomine
Diethylstilbestrol Stilboestrol Diethylstilbestrol
Dosulepin Dothiepin Dothiepin
Epinephrine Adrenaline Epinephrine
Glibenclamide   Glyburide
Glycerol Glycerine Glycerin
Glyceryl trinitrate   Nitroglycerin
Hyoscine   Scopolamine
Isoprenaline   Isoproterenol
  Ispaghula Psyllium
Levomepromazine Methotrimeprazine  
Levothyroxine Thyroxine  
Liquid paraffin   Mineral oil
Methenamine hippurate Hexamine hippurate  
Paracetamol   Acetaminophen
Pethidine   Meperidine
Phenobarbital Phenobarbitone  
Phenoxymethylpenicillin   Penicillin V
Phytomenadione   Phytonadione
Retinol Vitamin A Vitamin A
Rifampicin   Rifampin
Salbutamol   Albuterol
Simeticonea Simethicone Simethicone
Sodium cromoglicate Sodium cromoglycate Cromolyn sodium
Tetracaine Amethocaine  
Trihexyphenidyl Benzhexol Trihexyphenidyl

1    FDA (2006) Consumers filling U.S. prescriptions abroad may get the wrong active ingredient because of confusing drug names. Public Health Advisory.