Guidelines on the Use of International Nonproprietary Names (INNs) for Pharmaceutical Substances
(1997; 41 pages) View the PDF document
Table of Contents
Open this folder and view contents1. General introduction
Open this folder and view contents2. Elements in the INN system
Close this folder3. Principles for selection of INNs
View the document3.1 General rules
View the document3.2 Use of stems
View the document3.3 Stereoisomers
View the document3.4 Radioactive compounds
View the document3.5 Specific groups of biological compounds
View the document4. Protection of INNs
Open this folder and view contents5. How to apply for an INN
View the document6. References for supporting material
View the documentAnnex 1: Background information on the INN programme
View the documentAnnex 2: General principles for guidance in devising international nonproprietary names for pharmaceutical substances
View the documentAnnex 3: List of common stems used in the selection of INNs
View the documentAnnex 4: Specific groups of biological compounds
View the documentAnnex 5: WHA46.19 - Nonproprietary names for pharmaceutical substances
View the documentAnnex 6: Procedure for the selection of international nonproprietary names for pharmaceutical substances
View the documentAnnex 7: Applications for INNs through national authorities (addresses)
View the documentAnnex 8: INN request form
 

3.1 General rules

General rules were established at the beginning of the INN programme in order to guide the members of the INN committee and to allow health professionals to understand the rationale for a number of new names. At first, some countries used shortened chemical names as generic names, but this system was found to be very limited, since many molecules contain similar elements and groups, such as phenol, chlor, methyl or benzene-rings, in their chemical structures. In addition, a name that indicates relationship to a group of pharmacological similarly-acting substances is more meaningful to users.

In its Twentieth Report (WHO Technical Report Series, No. 581, 1975), the WHO Expert Committee on Nonproprietary Names for Pharmaceutical Substances reviewed the general principles for devising, and the procedures for selecting, international nonproprietary names (INN) in the light of developments in pharmaceutical compounds over the years. The current version of the General principles for guidance in devising international nonproprietary names for pharmaceutical substances is reproduced in Annex 2.

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