The School of International Nonproprietary Names. (WHO Drug Information Vol 33, No. 1, 2019)
(2019; 5 pages)


Medicinal substances can be identified in several, different ways. They can be recognized by a brand name (such as “Ventolin”) or a chemical name [4-[2-(tert-butylamino)-1- hydroxyethyl]-2-(hydroxymethyl)phenol]. Some regulatory authorities approved different nonproprietary names for pharmaceuticals in their jurisdictions (e.g., salbutamol in Europe, albuterol in the US). And, in addition, a brand name can designate a medicine containing more than one active substance (like “DuoNeb” or “Combivent”), and often the same active substance is sold under different brand names. This variety of names can cause confusion, which may lead to medication errors.

The INN (International Nonproprietary Name) Programme for pharmaceutical substances is working to facilitate communication between health care professionals, researchers, regulators, and users around the world. The main objective of the Programme is to define a single, unique, globally accepted name for each pharmaceutical substance. This ensures that everyone can easily identify a given substance. INN are distinctive in sound and spelling, not liable to confusion with other names (such as trademarks) and are available in the public domain.

INN are used for prescribing and dispensing of pharmaceutical substances, labelling of medicinal products, and for drug regulation. They facilitate communication between health professionals, the pharmaceutical industry, patients and people in the academia. INN are essential for scientific literature, pharmacopoeias and more. In the global scope, the use of the INN has many implications, regarding the prescribing, dispensing, cost and acceptance of the different alternatives, alongside with safety and access issues.

El Portal de Información - Medicamentos Esenciales y Productos de Salud de la OMS fue diseñado y es mantenido por la ONG Human Info. Última actualización: le 1 diciembre 2019