Coding and classification in drug statistics – From national to global application
The Anatomical Therapeutic Chemical (ATC) classification system and the defined daily dose (DDD)
was developed in Norway in the early seventies. The creation of the ATC/DDD methodology was an
important basis for presenting drug utilisation statistics in a sensible way. Norway was in 1977 also the
first country to publish national drug utilisation statistics from wholesalers on an annual basis. The
combination of these activities in Norway in the seventies made us a pioneer country in the area of drug
utilisation research. Over the years, the use of the ATC/DDD methodology has gradually increased in
countries outside Norway. Since 1996, the methodology has been recommended by WHO for use in
international drug utilisation studies. The WHO Collaborating Centre for Drug Statistics Methodology
in Oslo handles the maintenance and development of the ATC/DDD system. The Centre is now responsible
for the global co-ordination. After nearly 30 years of experience with ATC/DDD, the methodology
has demonstrated its suitability in drug use research. The main challenge in the coming years is to
educate the users worldwide in how to use the methodology properly.
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