RxNorm Extension: tool to standardize source drug data using OMOP CDM

The RxNorm Extension, our innovative product, transforms drug data management by seamlessly integrating international drug classifications and historical data into the OMOP ecosystem for generating evidence from observational data. Developed with advanced AI and database technologies, this toolset ensures comprehensive standardization and integration of drug data, fulfilling essential healthcare and pharmaceutical sector needs.

Our client is a leader in digital healthcare and data analytics, specializing in the processing and organizing of drug data. Their work plays a crucial role in the Observational Medical Outcomes Partnership (OMOP) Common Data Model (CDM), focusing on the consolidation of global drug information and the application of real-world data.

It involves reorganizing drug data internationally and is supported by a robust technical and scientific infrastructure, particularly aimed at health data standards, with a strong emphasis on the OMOP CDM.

Their work in drug data standardization addresses healthcare and pharmaceutical sector needs, enhancing drug discovery and analysis efficiency, crucial for research and patient safety.

The primary challenge involves the limitations of RxNorm, a model originally designed to represent drugs in the U.S. market. Its focus is on current drugs, capturing details like contents and dosage effectively. However, it falls short in two critical aspects: it cannot represent international drug concepts and does not include data on drugs that are no longer available.

This puts additional hurdles to the work of the following users:

  • Researchers Needing access to a broad spectrum of drug data, including international and previous drug information for comprehensive studies.

  • Healthcare Professionals Globally Requiring accurate and complete drug information from various international markets for better patient care and treatment planning.

  • Pharmaceutical Companies Seeking extensive drug data for global market analysis and research.

To address these gaps, the RxNorm Extension system was developed. This innovative solution is designed to expand the scope of RxNorm by incorporating different data on drugs from different countries, significantly broadening its applicability beyond the U.S. market. Additionally, it incorporates data on discontinued drugs, crucial for longitudinal studies and understanding drug evolution and safety profiles, making RxNorm Extension a comprehensive tool for global drug analysis.


We crafted advanced SQL algorithms to streamline the conversion of diverse drug data sources into a universally compatible format:

Key Attribute Extraction and Mapping

The model begins by extracting essential attributes from each drug concept, applicable to both structured classifications and free-form provider data. These attributes are then meticulously mapped to corresponding entities within RxNorm.

Building Mappings with RxNorm

For each drug concept, the AI compares attribute combinations against existing RxNorm concepts. This comparison ensures accurate and comprehensive mappings are established.

Integration with RxNorm Extension

In cases where RxNorm lacks necessary attributes or concepts, the advanced SQL solution automatically generates equivalent entities within the RxNorm Extension. This includes creating a supporting hierarchy, essential for maintaining data integrity and structure.

Seamless Integration into OMOP Ecosystem

This methodical approach allows the incorporation of any drug data into the OMOP ecosystem. It ensures no critical information is lost, making our model a vital tool for global drug data analysis and application.


Our solution enhances drug data management with precise standardization, global coverage expansion, and expert team collaboration, advancing analysis in healthcare and pharmaceuticals:

  • Drug Data Standardization Central to our solution is the standardization of drug data, ensuring consistency and reliability across various healthcare and pharmaceutical applications.

  • RxNorm Extension as Standardized Vocabulary The RxNorm Extension tool serves as a standardized drug vocabulary, fully aligned with the OHDSI/OMOP ecosystem. This alignment guarantees smooth alignment and uniformity in drug data interpretation and usage.

  • Global Drug Coverage Integration with RxNorm Our system extends RxNorm's capabilities, providing comprehensive global drug coverage. This expansion goes beyond the US market, offering a more inclusive and wide-reaching drug data resource.

The development and implementation of our solution are backed by a team with diverse skills in healthcare, pharmaceuticals, data science, data modeling, and programming. This multidisciplinary expertise ensures a well-rounded and robust approach to drug data management and analysis.

Project Stages

  • Initial Analysis Our initial phase focused on a detailed examination of the RxNorm model deployed within the OMOP CDM, specifically identifying its constraints in accurately representing drugs from international markets and previous usage. This in-depth analysis highlighted the need for a broader scope to encompass diverse drug data.

  • RxNorm Extension Creation In response to the identified limitations, we created the RxNorm Extension. This specialized tool was designed to extend the RxNorm terminology within the OMOP framework, enabling it to cover a more diverse array of drug data. Specifically, it includes drugs not typically found in the U.S. market, effectively broadening the model's scope to incorporate a more global drug database.

  • Integration and Testing Upon development, we integrated the RxNorm Extension into the existing OMOP framework. This phase involved comprehensive testing to verify the system's smooth operation and reliability. We focused on ensuring that the extension worked flawlessly with OMOP's existing structures, particularly in handling the newly included world drug data and historical drug information.

In our project, we addressed two key industry challenges: managing diverse drug classifications and improving the representation of historical and non-U.S. drugs in existing models. Below, we detail our strategic solutions to these challenges, demonstrating how our approach effectively resolved these issues:

  • Challenge: Varied International Drug Classifications We created a detailed mapping system to align multiple drug terminologies from countries with RxNorm's structure, achieving a unified global drug classification. This system specifically targets the harmonization of different naming conventions and dosage forms across various countries.

  • Challenge: Underrepresented Drug Types To address this, the RxNorm Extension was refined to autonomously create the required attributes and concepts for drugs from different countries and past periods. This enhancement focuses on including discontinued drugs and those available internationally but not in the U.S., significantly narrowing RxNorm's coverage gap.

Industry Impact

Our work has had a significant impact on the pharmaceutical and healthcare industries. By applying the RxNorm Extension update routine to around 20 different drug concept sources, covering key European, North American, and Asian national drug classifications, we have expanded the range of drug data available for research and clinical purposes. This development has made drug information more comprehensive on a global scale.

Impact on end-user

Our product streamlines the daily work of professionals working with various drug databases, as it guarantees uniform, dependable, and thorough drug data management. Our ongoing support and updates keep clients up-to-date with drug data standardization and analysis, aiding in more precise and well-informed decisions in healthcare.

Tech Stack
  • Multidisciplinary Approach Leveraged the combined expertise in healthcare, pharmaceuticals, data science, and programming for a well-rounded development strategy.

  • Open Source Contributions Sciforce team members are key contributors to the open-source OHDSI community, having directly designed, developed, and continually supported various tools crucial for building and maintaining the RxNorm Extension.

  • Database and SQL Tools Our team employed advanced relational database management systems and specialized SQL-based tools for the efficient handling and processing of complex drug data sets.

  • User-Centric Design: Employed user-centric design principles to ensure that the final product was technically sound but also user-friendly and practical in real-world applications.

The RxNorm Extension has notably enhanced drug data management, focusing on aligning worldwide drug classifications. Our team's consistent development and support of this toolset have been key in effectively integrating global drug data into unified formats, proving essential in the industry.