J Am Med Inform Assoc 18:441-448 doi:10.1136/amiajnl-2011-000116
  • Research and applications

Normalized names for clinical drugs: RxNorm at 6 years

  1. Robin Moore
  1. U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland, USA
  1. Correspondence to Stuart J Nelson, National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, Bldg 1DEM, Room 202G, 6701 Democracy Blvd, Bethesda, MD 20892 USA; nelson{at}
  • Received 11 February 2011
  • Accepted 24 March 2011
  • Published Online First 21 April 2011


Objective In the 6 years since the National Library of Medicine began monthly releases of RxNorm, RxNorm has become a central resource for communicating about clinical drugs and supporting interoperation between drug vocabularies.

Materials and methods Built on the idea of a normalized name for a medication at a given level of abstraction, RxNorm provides a set of names and relationships based on 11 different external source vocabularies. The standard model enables decision support to take place for a variety of uses at the appropriate level of abstraction. With the incorporation of National Drug File Reference Terminology (NDF-RT) from the Veterans Administration, even more sophisticated decision support has become possible.

Discussion While related products such as RxTerms, RxNav, MyMedicationList, and MyRxPad have been recognized as helpful for various uses, tasks such as identifying exactly what is and is not on the market remain a challenge.


  • The work of maintaining the documentation, inverting and inserting multiple sources into RxNorm, as well as distribution of the RxNorm vocabulary and maintenance of the RxNorm website is done by the Office of Computer and Communications Systems (OCCS) of the National Library of Medicine.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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