Drugs and their names are just confusing. When they are being developed they are given many different names. Despite their names the drugs (or treatments) are the same. Names are just names nothing more.

For laymen, drugs having multiple names for the same drug is confusing. So, why are there so many different names for the same drug?

Let me try and straighten out the confusion. Usually drugs, as they go through the development process, are given three different names;

  • A chemical name that relates to its molecular composition. This chemical name is usually to long and complex to use in everyday interactions.
  • A generic name that is nonproprietary or can be used by anyone and
  • A trade name, which is a trademarked, propriety name that is owned by the drug company that owns the drug’s patent.

The third type of name, the trade name is arbitrarily made up by the drug company and must be approved in the United States by the FDA. The FDA is tough on approvals and very concerned that drugs are not confused or mixed up with each other, so they are usually tough in their approval process.

They actually reject about four out of every ten proposals they are given. In order to avoid confusion and in order to not have a name of a drug come with any pre-conceived notions they can be what seems like meaningless, like Xtandi and Xofigo.

To avoid confusion we often face with prostate cancer drugs the following cheat sheet should help:


Generic Name Brand Name Therapy Type & How Administered
Abiraterone Acetate Zytiga Hormonal Therapy – Oral
Cabazitaxel Jevtana Cytotoxic (Chemotherapy Therapy) – Infusion
Denosumab Xgeva Bone-Directed Therapy – Injection
Docetaxel Taxotere Cytotoxic (Chemotherapy) – Infusion
Enzalutamide Xtandi Hormonal Therapy – Oral
Radium-223 Xofigo Bone Targeting Therapy – Injection into the Vein
Sipuleucel-T  Provenge  Immunotherapy – Leukapheresis and Infusion