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WHO Collaborating Centre for Drug Statistics Methodology
Norwegian Institute of Public Health
Postboks 222 Sk°yen
0213 Oslo
Norway

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Marcus Thranes gate 6
0473 Oslo
Norway

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The EphMRA classification system

The ATC classification system was originally based on the same main principles as the Anatomical Classification developed by the European Pharmaceutical Market Research Association (EphMRA) and the Pharmaceutical Business Intelligence and Research Group (PBIRG). 

In the EphMRA classification, drugs are classified in a hierarchy of three and sometimes four levels mainly according to their indications and use.  Many of these quite similar to the ATC structure, but in many groups, less detailed.  Despite a similar structure at the higher levels, the ATC classification and the EphMRA classification have developed individually for many years.

Since 1991 there has been an annual consultation between the EphMRA classification committee and the WHO Collaborating Centre for Drug Statistics Methodology to discuss classification problems and to harmonize when possible.  The harmonization process was initiated in order to minimise the confusion of having two very similar classification systems.

There are many differences between the EphMRA classification and the ATC classification.  This means that data prepared using the ATC classification cannot be directly compared with data prepared using the EphMRA system.  Awareness of the differences between the two systems is then particularly important.  In some settings, and on the EphMRA website, the system is referred to as the ATC classification and this has caused confusion among users over the years.  

The EphMRA classification system is used worldwide by IMS (Intercontinental Medical Statistics) in producing marketing research statistics for the pharmaceutical industry.

An annually updated comparison booklet of the two systems is available.

Last updated: 2018-02-13