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Progress for One Drug Database project

A project is underway at the NHS Business Services Authority (NHSBSA) to move all drug data into one place, to provide a consistent single source of information.

For many years the NHSBSA 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 in how the data is stored, including different naming conventions used in each system, which can be confusing for users. The new One Drug Database will remove these inconsistencies and improve the quality of the data.

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

There will be some differences in the way the data is presented, including:


Differences in the naming convention

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.

In most cases, this will align with the dm+d naming convention.


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, with the dose listed as different pack sizes and the aggregated data being 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 therefore be represented for 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 (i.e. 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.


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

To ensure a smooth transition over to the new single data source, NHSBSA will be re-running all monthly ePACT2 data back to January 2014 and re-publishing it in the new format. This re-run will take place before the November 2019 data is published.

 The Detailed Prescribing Information data from the Information Services Portal will also be subject to the same changes. NHSBSA will publish a sample data set that users can use to redesign systems if necessary.

More details and a table for the changes will be published soon.

Contact Information

Kate Blush

Senior Media and Campaigns Officer

NHS Business Services Authority

Notes to editors

About the NHS Business Services Authority

The NHS Business Services Authority is a Special Health Authority and an Arm’s Length Body of the Department of Health and Social Care which provides a range of critical central services to NHS organisations, NHS contractors, patients and the public. Its purpose is to be a catalyst for better health and its vision is to be the delivery partner of choice for the NHS. For more information about the NHSBSA, please visit