An approximate matching method for clinical drug names

AMIA Annu Symp Proc. 2011;2011:1117-26. Epub 2011 Oct 22.


Objective: To develop an approximate matching method for finding the closest drug names within existing RxNorm content for drug name variants found in local drug formularies.

Methods: We used a drug-centric algorithm to determine the closest strings between the RxNorm data set and local variants which failed the exact and normalized string matching searches. Aggressive measures such as token splitting, drug name expansion and spelling correction are used to try and resolve drug names. The algorithm is evaluated against three sets containing a total of 17,164 drug name variants.

Results: Mapping of the local variant drug names to the targeted concept descriptions ranged from 83.8% to 92.8% in three test sets. The algorithm identified the appropriate RxNorm concepts as the top candidate in 76.8%, 67.9% and 84.8% of the cases in the three test sets and among the top three candidates in 90-96% of the cases.

Conclusion: Using a drug-centric token matching approach with aggressive measures to resolve unknown names provides effective mappings to clinical drug names and has the potential of facilitating the work of drug terminology experts in mapping local formularies to reference terminologies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms*
  • Formularies as Topic*
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations*
  • RxNorm*
  • Terminology as Topic*
  • Unified Medical Language System


  • Pharmaceutical Preparations