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DBL%20Hendrix%20small.png College chemistry, 1983

Derek Lowe The 2002 Model

Dbl%20new%20portrait%20B%26W.png After 10 years of blogging. . .

Derek Lowe, an Arkansan by birth, got his BA from Hendrix College and his PhD in organic chemistry from Duke before spending time in Germany on a Humboldt Fellowship on his post-doc. He's worked for several major pharmaceutical companies since 1989 on drug discovery projects against schizophrenia, Alzheimer's, diabetes, osteoporosis and other diseases. To contact Derek email him directly: Twitter: Dereklowe

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February 7, 2013

DUCTS: Down with Useless Clinical Trial acronymS

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Posted by Derek

I'm not the first person to complain about these things, of course. Even by 2003, there were sixteen different clinical trials in the literature with the acronym HEART. It appears that the cardiovascular field picked up the acronym bug early, probably due to the size and length of their clinical programs. It also may been the first field to think up the jazzy clinical trial name first, and find something half-sensible to match it afterwards. But who can doubt that this is what goes on most of the time now? For those who still want to run the algorithm the other way, there's the Acronym Generator, which, wouldn't you know it, is run out of a cardiac hospital unit in Liverpool.

I wonder if the FDA would ever consider requiring drug companies and other research organizations to tone all this down, in the interest of sanity. If you're studying a drug called, say, kevorkirol (a generic name I invented a few years back, and hereby give freely to the scientific community), couldn't the clinical studies just be named "Kevorkirol Efficacy Trial #1", and "Kevorkirol Expanded Efficacy Trial #2" and so on? That would actually help people to keep them straight, instead of having to make a chart of bizarre trial names and their actual purpose. Anyone up for this idea?

Comments (25) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Clinical Trials | Regulatory Affairs


1. Morten G on February 7, 2013 8:54 AM writes...

Kevorkirol Efficacy Trial:
KEEL (over, I suppose).

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2. Jonathan on February 7, 2013 9:05 AM writes...

NIH seems determined to try and outcompete Pharma when it comes to 'clever' acronyms for programs. If people spent half that energy actually doing real work instead, imagine what we could accomplish.

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3. rhodium on February 7, 2013 9:14 AM writes...

I wish I did natural products isolation. I know what I would name the next compound I discovered.

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4. Scientistbymistake on February 7, 2013 9:25 AM writes...

I hate cheesy acronyms, end of!

@ 3. rhodium - go on, tell us!

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5. Henning Makholm on February 7, 2013 9:40 AM writes...

@Jonathan: Come on, it's the only piece of fun people are allowed to have while grantwriting. Most of it probably doesn't happen on the clock either, but during breaks and commutes.

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6. Paul Ivsin on February 7, 2013 9:44 AM writes...

I think the term of art here is "backronym": the back-formed acronym.

Word Spy - Backronym

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7. jonathan on February 7, 2013 9:52 AM writes...

Henning - I'm talking about people at NIH, not grantees.

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8. Paul Ivsin on February 7, 2013 10:25 AM writes...

We still give names to all our trials -- we try to find something that helps clearly identify the trial to patients and investigators. A few years ago, though, we stopped trying to back-fit the long, convoluted title into it. I don't think anyone's ever noticed. Certainly no one's asked.

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9. David Formerly Known as a Chemist on February 7, 2013 10:57 AM writes...

There you go Derek, trying to stifle innovation and creativity. What a curmudgeon Did you move into management? :)

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10. Dr Jimbo on February 7, 2013 11:04 AM writes...

I got...
URINATE: stUdy to see if my dRug Is better thaN All The rEst

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11. Chemjobber on February 7, 2013 11:20 AM writes...

ONWARD: dO Not Worry About that otheR Dead patient

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12. Rock on February 7, 2013 11:30 AM writes...

Yes, Derek. Way to be a job killer. Don't you know how many MBA's and marketers your idea would put out of work?

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13. Chrispy on February 7, 2013 11:34 AM writes...

PILLAR: PaId for by Layoffs in earLy reseARch

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14. anon on February 7, 2013 12:43 PM writes...

DRUID trial: Derek thRows Up hIs hanDs

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15. NJBiologist on February 7, 2013 1:04 PM writes...

Sadly, Kevorkiol is a transporter substrate; you don't achieve useful tissue levels without the transporter inhibitor, Fiegerine.

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16. CMCguy on February 7, 2013 1:52 PM writes...

Actually I think Derek and most of commentators are missing the point stated by #8PI: the Trial Name/Acronym helps "clearly identify the trial to patients and investigators" as the primary audience and unfortunately in well studied areas, like cardiac medicines, it is tough to come up with an original tag. I may incorrect on this but believe the FDA does make more complicated as rules does not allow use of names that will ID company or drug, indicate MOA or hint at "benefit" and therefore make it harder (and would immediately eliminate Kevorkirol Efficacy Trial #1) and leads to what might be "bizarre". Like many things it may appears silly and odd from the outside looking in however from insiders viewpoint is more understandable and meaningful where people involved do know how to track and translate appropriately.

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17. Da Vinci on February 7, 2013 2:40 PM writes...

In an undergrad lab rotation I actually did a bit of work on an EU project called, I kid you not, EGGPRESSURE, which is somehow the abbreviation for "High potential egg protein hydrolysates as functional ingredients for in vivo reduction of blood pressure". For those who refuse to believe (can't blame you), see

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18. bob on February 7, 2013 3:41 PM writes...

I read somewhere that trial acronyms help in patient recruitment since that can be very difficult in some cases. I believe it was said in either Her-2 or The Emperor of All Maladies (both books anyone in DD should read).

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19. DrugA on February 7, 2013 4:28 PM writes...

For you clinicAl trIaLists (FAIL)

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20. DrugA on February 7, 2013 4:28 PM writes...

For you clinicAl trIaLists (FAIL)

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21. Ghost on February 8, 2013 1:59 AM writes...

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22. Mrs. Anonymous BMS Researcher on February 8, 2013 11:31 PM writes...

Kevorkirol In Limitation of Longevity (KILL)

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23. offlabel on February 9, 2013 6:12 PM writes...

"Kevorkirol Efficacy Trial #1" Would that be KETone?

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24. Anonymous on February 11, 2013 12:52 AM writes...

Just re-read the headline for this in my reader. Was DUCTS by any chance a play on the Calvin & Hobbes "Get Rid Of Slimy GirlS" acronym?

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25. Jonadab on February 18, 2013 10:07 PM writes...

> Would that be KETone?


Also, it should be pointed out that the significance of the name "kervorkeriol" would be lost on most of the people graduating from college these days. (I guess they would have been in about second grade when that story hit the news. They don't remember anything significant about the Clinton presidency either.)

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