The International Conference on Harmonisation has agreed upon the structure and content of the Medical Dictionary for Regulatory Activities (MedDRA) version 2.0 which should become available in the early part of 1999. This medical terminology is intended for use in the pre- and postmarketing phases of the medicines regulatory process, covering diagnoses, symptoms and signs, adverse drug reactions and therapeutic indications, the names and qualitative results of investigations, surgical and medical procedures, and medical/social history. It can be used for recording adverse events and medical history in clinical trials, in the analysis and tabulations of data from these trials and in the expedited submission of safety data to government regulatory authorities, as well as in constructing standard product information and documentation for applications for marketing authorisation. After licensing of a medicine, it may be used in pharmacovigilance and is expected to be the preferred terminology for international electronic regulatory communication. MedDRA is a hierarchical terminology with 5 levels and is multiaxial: terms may exist in more than 1 vertical axis, providing specificity of terms for data entry and flexibility in data retrieval. Terms in MedDRA were derived from several sources including the WHO's adverse reaction terminology (WHO-ART), Coding Symbols for a Thesaurus of Adverse Reaction Terms (COSTART), International Classification of Diseases (ICD) 9 and ICD9-CM. It will be maintained, further developed and distributed by a Maintenance Support Services Organisation (MSSO). It is anticipated that using MedDRA will improve the quality of data captured on databases, support effective analysis by providing clinically relevant groupings of terms and facilitate electronic communication of data, although as a new tool, users will need to invest time in gaining expertise in its use.