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The Pharmaceutical Journal
Vol 268 No 7204 p903-905
29 June 2002

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  Prescription charges
  Community pharmacy
  Product identification
  Medication errors
  The Council
  The Profession

Letters to the Editor

  * PDF files on PJ Online require Acrobat Reader 4 or later.

Product identification

Projects will deliver the solution required

Mapping the PIP Code

Projects will deliver the solution required

From Mr P. A. Frosdick, MRPharmS

Andrew Gledhill (PJ, 15 June, p838) raises an important point when he discusses the need for a "common generic code which will identify a particular product irrespective of pack size or manufacturer". This requirement was identified in the information strategy for the National Health Service "Information for Health" published in 1998.1

The two projects described by Robin Glasspoole in his comments to Mr Gledhill's letter, the Primary Care Drug Dictionary and the UK Standard Clinical Products Reference Source, were established to correct this "lack of standardisation in describing medicines, appliances and medical devices".1 Their combined approach will deliver a solution that provides standard identifiers and descriptions for concepts at various levels of abstraction, including that described by Mr Gledhill.

Both projects have been mindful of the need to engage system suppliers, both those who produce drug databases themselves, and those who implement those databases through their own systems. As part of this process the second joint PCDD/UKCPRS suppliers forum was held on 21 June, specifically looking at issues around implementation, maintenance and distribution of such a standard resource. In addition, the First Users Roadshow, designed to communicate the projects' aims and process to the clinical community was held on 19 June at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society's headquarters.

I would echo Robin Glasspoole's recommendation to view the respective websites of these two projects for further information. In particular, a demonstrator of the data model containing definitions of concept classes and example uses is now available on these sites.

Both projects have engaged with the NHS Information Standards Board, the body that approves all IT standards for deployment in the NHS. As they move through their delivery phases the review and approval processes employed by the Standards Board will ensure they deliver the solution Mr Gledhill identifies as important: not just to the support of pharmacy practice, but to the support of the whole information agenda in the NHS.


1. NHS Executive. Information for health. Leeds: NHS Executive; 1998.

Paul Frosdick
Principal Pharmacist
NHS Information Authority

Mapping the PIP Code

From Mr R. Maw

The Primary Care Drug Dictionary (PCDD) is properly identified by Robin Glasspoole, of First DataBank Europe, as a Government inspired project which might deliver a nationally accepted generic drug identifier, in England initially and probably Scotland and Wales in due course (PJ, June 15, p838).

Should the Department of Health's plans for the electronic transfer of prescriptions (ETP) come to fruition it is intended that the PCDD should provide the bridge between the prescribing doctor, the dispensing pharmacist and the reimbursement and data collection functions of the Prescription Pricing Authority.

However, the supply chain was not within the original remit of the project and only belatedly have the implications of this become evident. As a consequence, the PCDD does not integrate well with pharmacists' dispensary management systems or the systems of the wholesalers from which they order stock. Most of these systems use either pharmaceutical interface product (PIP) codes, Link, or alternative internally developed codes.

Until ETP moves closer to reality there is little commercial incentive for community pharmacists to adopt the PCDD. And if, and when, ETP is rolled out, who is going to cover the software costs, licence fees and other associated costs?

In the expectation that the PCDD will eventually be widely adopted, the National Pharmaceutical Association and CMP Information, which, respectively, hold the copyright in and administer the PIP Code, are actively looking to map the PIP Code to the PCDD to provide a bridge between the NHS and the supply chain. To this end we are consulting with major industry users, the PCDD project management team and the PPA. We would also welcome informed comment from system suppliers and any other parties who use the PIP Code.

Richard Maw
Chairman, PIP Code Technical Panel,
National Pharmaceutical Association Limited,
St Albans,

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