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The Anatomical Therapeutic Chemical (ATC) Classification System is used for the classification of active ingredients of drugs according to the organ or system on which they act and their therapeutic, pharmacological and chemical properties. It is controlled by the World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for Drug Statistics Methodology (WHOCC), and was first published in 1976.
This pharmaceutical coding system divides drugs into different groups according to the organ or system on which they act and/or their therapeutic and chemical characteristics. Each bottom-level ATC code stands for a pharmaceutically used substance, or a combination of substances, in a single indication (or use). This means that one drug can have more than one code: acetylsalicylic acid (aspirin), for example, has A01AD05 (WHO) as a drug for local oral treatment, B01AC06 (WHO) as a platelet inhibitor, and N02BA01 (WHO) as an analgesic and antipyretic. On the other hand, several different brands share the same code if they have the same active substance and indications.
The ATC system is based on the earlier Anatomical Classification System, which is intended as a tool for the pharmaceutical industry to classify pharmaceutical products (as opposed to their active ingredients). This system, confusingly also called ATC, was initiated in 1971 by the European Pharmaceutical Market Research Association (EphMRA) and is being maintained by the EphMRA and the Pharmaceutical Business Intelligence and Research Group (PBIRG). Its codes are organised into four levels. The WHO's system, having five levels, is an extension and modification of the EphMRA's. It was first published in 1976.
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