Origins of Rx

We finished up the latest issue of PEN, and for the feature I focused on branding and advertising by the pharmaceutical industry. While researching this topic, the importance of company and product names kept coming up. What a company calls itself or its products is extremely important for recognition. The new product “Xyntha” by Wyeth is causing a minor stir due in part to its very unusual and interesting name.

One suffix I encountered and was curious about was “Rx.” We all now it means “prescription” but why? Rx is used in the company names BioRx, PrecisionRx, and Med Pro Rx… all related to hemophilia services.

According to the book Who Put the Butter in Butterfly? “R” is the symbol of the Roman god Jupiter, the patron of medicines. Rx is also an abbreviation of “recipe,” from the Latin recipere, to receive. R appeared on top of all prescriptions, denoting “to take”: directions then followed. Even the English word recipe originally referred to medical prescriptions. Over time the word was also used for cooking–not unusual, as many of the same herbs and spices in cooking were being used in prescriptions at the time! I guess flavored medicine has been a round longer than we think!

Great Book I Just Read: Ultramarathon Man, by Dean Karnazes. After meeting with Steve Petty two weeks ago, just before he ran the Boston Marathon (and did very well!), I was inspired to read this marvelous book again. Dean Karnazes tells the story of how he came to be one of the top ultramarathoners, those obsessive runners who think nothing of running 15 miles to a marathon as a warm up and then run the marathon, and then “relax” by going windsurfing all afternoon! His story is amazing: running in 120 degree heat for 100 miles, shoes melting; running 199 miles, without stopping, to raise money for a dying girl’s treatment; running a marathon to the South Pole! This is a quick read, and may do for you what it did for me: inspire one to get up and get moving! Dean makes you feel as though nothing is impossible. Four stars.

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