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Chasing the Horizon
09-22-2008, 11:23 AM
Ugh, this always seems to come up in stories with a contemporary setting. I'm wondering whether I should name specific real psychiatric medications in the novel I'm outlining. The medication will be portrayed in a very negative (though not unrealistic) way. There are class action lawsuits against many of the drugs I'm considering naming, and I don't see how they could plausibly object to the portrayal, but I'm still wondering if it wouldn't be better to make up a 'new' drug within the same category (I'm sure most people wouldn't even realize it was made-up if the name sounded 'druggy'). I'm leaning towards making up the specific drug name, because then no-one could possibly object and I could make it have exactly the side-effects I want. Or maybe I'm leaning towards making it up because I'm used to writing stories set on my fantasy world and making everything up. Anyway, which do you think I should do?

Kris Ashton
09-22-2008, 11:58 AM
The path of least resistance would be to make up a name, thereby removing any threat of a lawsuit (which publishers usually don't care for). Besides, I doubt your average person knows what psychiatric medications are called anyway.

RainbowDragon
09-22-2008, 12:00 PM
For fiction, I would make it up. Then no one can sue you. And if it starts with a Z or an X and has no logical vowel placement, like you said people may assume it's a real medicine anyway!

katiemac
09-22-2008, 12:14 PM
Are you saying something like using "Prozac" instead of "antidepressant" and then discussing it in a negative way?

Yeah, don't do it. Doesn't matter if they already have lawsuits or that they couldn't "plausibly" object. They can still object. Your readers don't care if it's real or not, as long as it acts real.

Scribhneoir
09-22-2008, 12:33 PM
Make it up. Besides ensuring no one will sue you, there's a great deal to be said for being able to create your own side effects, carefully chosen for maximum plot impact.

Deccydiva
09-22-2008, 01:02 PM
I agree, make it up. Apart from law suits, you might worry a reader who is actually on the named stuff. Less research, too! ;)

Beach Bunny
09-22-2008, 01:36 PM
You know, people can be stupid and weird. I say make-up a name just in case someone decides the side-effects sound pretty good and want to try the medication. :rolleyes:

JamieFord
09-22-2008, 06:39 PM
I'm going to be the contrarian here. Go ahead and use the real name(s). It'll probably connect better with the reader. Let your editor say yay or nay on it later.

regdog
09-22-2008, 08:11 PM
I vote for make up a name. Using a real drug's name us just an opening for a lawsuit especially if there is a negative result in the book

johnzakour
09-22-2008, 08:18 PM
If you are aiming to write realistic fiction I would side with Jamie and say use the real name at least at first and let your publisher's lawyers say okay or no way. The Simpsons do it on occasion with Ambient. (Unless of course you are making up the side effects then you should make up the drug to go with it.)

IceCreamEmpress
09-22-2008, 08:22 PM
If you're leaning toward making it up, make it up. As you say, it will give you the freedom to make it do what you want it to do for your plot.

There's no need to take on all the hassle of dealing with naming a real-life medication UNLESS it's important for you to depict that medication exactly in your plot.

Contemplative
09-22-2008, 08:26 PM
I'm contrary too. Not naming names makes your story less socially relevant, and it also turns a very specific, informed criticism into a more general "distrust of pharmaceuticals" message. That may not be what you want; demonizing an imaginary drug sends a "drugs in general are bad" message, rather than "this specific drug is bad".

Most drugs have chemical names and brand names. For example, I use pills to treat a sleep disorder that are called Temazepam and are sold under the brand name Restoril. In theory (IANAL) I can refer negatively to "Temazapam" in a story, but not to "Restoril". (Not that I want to; it's improved my quality of life greatly!) But if you use the real chemical name and a made up brand name, and least people know which specific drug you talk about. /Never/ use real brand names (trademarks) negatively; trademark law is scary and they can get you even if what you say is 100% accurate. ("Dilution of Trademark").

This said, I am not the one taking a legal risk, and in practice an angry corporation can effectively harrass anyone, even if they should be in the legal clear, and pharmaceutical companies have a reputation for ruthlessness. So I'm not trying to be sanctimonious about what you should do; you gotta choose for yourself.

Clifton Hill
09-23-2008, 12:04 AM
Most drugs have chemical names and brand names.
I was just going to point that out too regarding the generic names (which I assume are the chemical names, not sure though). Like for instance Vioxx which is generically known as Rofecoxib. I would think that you could do what you wanted regarding a generic drug name, but who knows...

I also feel that greater impact is felt by using the real name, or at least the generic name, though I agree that litigation can be a real worry. I am reminded of "The DaVinci Code" where heavy derogative reference was made to Opus Dei, and I never heard of Dan Brown getting in trouble or taken to court for it. He did have a disclaimer at the beginning of the book, which may have helped, I recall it saying that the buildings and certain descriptions were true. It may have also stated that other items were conjecture. So maybe if you noted that you are basing your story on these class action suits, perhaps you'll be ok. Also for anyone that became influenced by your story I think that is just silly, there will always be people out there that will do something or think something just because they saw it in a movie, book, game, etc. But as creators of fiction that is not our problem, if they are unhinged enough to jump off a roof, start a fire, or stop taking their life saving drugs just becasue they saw it somewhere then they will do something crazy/suicidal whether they read of it in your book or somewhere else.

But then, whether you would be safe or not a publisher might not want to pick up an overly controversial book. So maybe it would be best to change the name for now, then tell any potential publishers that you had based it on Drug X, and ask if they felt it would be safe and offer more impact to use the real drug name, and just change it back then.

Thrillride
09-23-2008, 12:29 AM
I'm going to be the contrarian here. Go ahead and use the real name(s). It'll probably connect better with the reader. Let your editor say yay or nay on it later.

My MC takes Xanax in my story - and I say so. I feel that people connect with why she needs it and can relate to it. That being said, I don't portray Xanax as negative nor positive, just that she's on it - a lot.

Chasing the Horizon
09-23-2008, 04:02 AM
Thanks to everyone who responded. I would not be concerned if it were not an extremely negative portrayal. After all, I have the MC driving a Volkswagen Beetle, and am not in the least concerned that Volkswagen would object, because it's portrayed as being a good little car. If it were something as simple as thrillride's portrayal, I would use the real name.

There's also the fact that the drug in my story isn't one that's going to be well-known, like Xanax or Prozac. Unless the reader took it themselves or had a close friend or family member who did, chances are they would never have heard of it.

Someone mentioned the Simpsons episode about Ambian. I remember that episode very well (one of my all-time favorites) and they actually called the drug in question 'Zambian' (I think; I know the first letter was added). Of course, everyone knew what they meant, but they didn't quite use the real name.

I don't think it's worth the potential problems from big pharma to use a real drug, even if a publisher were to allow it (or let it slip through). I may do what the Simpsons did and add or subtract a few letters from the drugs real name in order to create a new name, but I'm definitely going to change the name. Thanks again to everyone. :)

Judg
09-23-2008, 04:07 AM
Clifton, Opus Dei is not a pharmaceutical. They have a very different ethos going on.

IceCreamEmpress
09-23-2008, 04:36 AM
There's also the fact that the drug in my story isn't one that's going to be well-known, like Xanax or Prozac. Unless the reader took it themselves or had a close friend or family member who did, chances are they would never have heard of it.

Then you have absolutely nothing to gain by using its name. Do what feels right to you.

RainyDayNinja
09-23-2008, 04:57 AM
If no one's going to recognize it anyway, I vote for using the chemical name. But then again, I'm studying chemistry, so coming across chemical names is like candy for me.

Enzo
09-23-2008, 06:48 AM
I'll go with the majority here and say make something up.
On the other hand, getting sued by the pharmaceutical industry will give your book enormous publicity - but probably not enough to offset the cost of the lawsuit, so there.

hammerklavier
09-23-2008, 07:36 AM
Doctors use the chemical names primarily, average people use the brand name, or some descriptor: heart medication, pink pill, etc.

Clifton Hill
09-24-2008, 07:28 PM
Clifton, Opus Dei is not a pharmaceutical. They have a very different ethos going on.
True, I would think they would be concerned about their "good" name though. Maybe they decided that there were too many truths in the book to make it worth court involvement. :Shrug: ;)

Can't say that I know, I never did any research on them.