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Important information on drug data

The ‘One Drug Database’ project is underway, which will move all of our drug data into one place. This will provide a consistent, single source of information.

For years, we’ve had two sources of drug data – Master Data Replacement (MDR) for reporting purposes, and Common Drug Reference (CDR) for the transactional processing of prescription items.

There have been inconsistencies with how data is stored in each system, including different naming conventions. This can confuse users. One Drug Database will stop these inconsistencies and improve the quality of data.

The project is due to be completed by the end of this calendar year. The first release of the new data format is due to be released in January 2020 (for November 2019 data).

There will be some differences in the way the data is presented.

Different naming conventions

Currently, ePACT2 takes the data from the MDR database, which has a character limit of 40 characters for drugs and 60 characters for appliances. The new system will increase this to 60 characters for drugs and 100 characters for appliances.

The current naming convention will therefore change from abbreviated drug name_ formulation, strength to full name of drug, strength, formulation.

This will align with the dm+d naming convention in most cases.

Pack sizes and BNF codes

BNF codes will change for products (drugs and appliances) where the pack size is currently shown as part of the naming convention.

Under the current system, these pack sizes will each have a different BNF code allocated. In the new single data source, the product will be allocated one BNF code. The dose will be listed as different pack sizes and the aggregated data will be shown under the one code.

For example, currently the data will show glyceryl trinitrate 400mcg/dose aerosol sublingual spray 180 doses x 500 items and glyceryl trinitrate 400mcg/dose aerosol sublingual spray 200 doses x 600 items. In the new dataset the data will be shown as glyceryl trinitrate 400mcg/dose aerosol sublingual spray x 1100 items if viewed at presentation level.

Special container pack sizes

Currently, some products are listed on the legacy drug database with a special container pack size included as part of the drug name.

For these products, the quantity is typically represented as the number of special container packs.  

The naming convention in dm+d does not hold the pack size as part of the drug name for these products. In the new single data source, the quantity will be represented as the total quantity (for example, the number of mls or gms), instead of the number of special container packs.

For example, amorolfine 5% medicated nail lacquer is listed in Part VIIIA of the Drug Tariff with a 5ml pack size. If a quantity of 5ml, 10ml, 15ml is prescribed, the quantity is currently reported as 1, 2, or 3 (for example, 1 x 5ml, 2 x 5ml, 3 x 5ml). Under the new single data source, the quantity will be reported as 5, 10, or 15.

ADQ / DDD calculations

There will be a review of ADQ / DDD calculations, which will cause some changes to the usage figures for drugs and products, such as inhalers.

You can view sample dataset containing current and new format. One is in the current format and one in the new format which will allow you to test the impact on your systems.

We are aiming to publish the data in this new format when the November 2019 data is released in January 2020 (approximately 19 January 2020).

To help with the transition to the new single data source, we’ll be re-running all monthly data back to January 2014 and re-publishing it in the new format.

The historic data will be available before the release of the November 2019 data to allow time for you to re-run any data you may find necessary. This re-run of data will be available to download at least a week in advance of the November 2019 data release (mid-January 2020) but we’ll provide more details on timescales nearer to the time.

If you have any issues you need to discuss, contact