NCPDP Terminology Files

The National Council for Prescription Drug Programs (NCPDP) terminology files provided here support the NCPDP SCRIPT and Telecommunication Standards, as described more fully on the NCI NCPDP Terminology Web page.

NCPDP terminology files are available for download from this NCI EVS ftp site ( in three formats:

NCPDP.xls (Microsoft Excel 2003)
NCPDP.xlsx (Microsoft Excel 2007*)
NCPDP.txt (Tab-delimited text)

Each file has column headers on the first row:

Spreadsheet Column Content Description
NCIt Subset Code The NCIt concept code attached to the subset concept. NCIt Codes are unique strings that begin with a C and are followed by a series of digits.
NCPDP Subset Preferred Term The NCPDP preferred term attached to the subset concept.
NCIt Code A unique and permanent identifier attached to every concept. The actual string carries no information other than to provide a machine readable piece of identification to every concept.
NCPDP Preferred Term The term chosen by NCPDP for use as its Preferred Term.
NCPDP Synonym An additional term chosen by NCPDP that has an equivalent meaning to the Preferred Term.
NCIt Preferred Term The term chosen by NCI EVS as most unambiguous and widely used in the biomedical community.
NCIt Definition A text definition of the term created by an NCI EVS subject matter expert.

NCPDP terminology is bundled into subsets, identified by code and name in the first two columns of each row. These are the names of the subsets and definitions supplied by NCPDP:

Subset Name Subset Description
NCPDP DEASchedule Terminology A set of terminology for NCPDP that contains concepts within the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Schedule of Controlled Substances.
NCPDP MeasurementUnitCode Terminology A set of terminology for NCPDP that contains concepts of various measurements of vital signs, particularly those pertaining to information about a patient that would be shared between the clinician and pharmacy in order to determine proper pharmaceutical care.
NCPDP QuantityUnitOfMeasure Terminology A set of terminology for NCPDP that contains concepts of the intended or actual dispensed quantity unit of measure (e.g., 1 Pack, 1 Inhaler, 17 grams, 30 tablets, 473 ML, 3 Eaches. Upon billing, this data is translated to Milliliters, Grams, for Eaches. Days supply is not allowed as a prescribed quantity for eRx. (Dispensed quantity from claims likely constrained to these values).
NCPDP StrengthForm Terminology A set of terminology for NCPDP that contains concepts that qualify the strength and strength unit of measure associated with the prescribed product (e.g., Amoxicillin 250 mg Tablet, Allbuterol HFA 17 grams Inhaler, Cefaclor 250 MG/5ML Suspension, Fentanyl 12 mcg/hr Patch, Epinephrine 0.3 mg [implied per dose] Auto-Injector, Timolol 0.25% Ophthalmic Drops, Sprintec 28 Day Pack, Hydrocortisone 1% Ointment).
NCPDP StrengthUnitOfMeasure Terminology A set of terminology for NCPDP that contains concepts of dosage form strength (e.g., 250 mg, 250 MG/5ML), a delivery rate (e.g., 12 mcg/hr, a dosage form concentration (e.g., 0.05%, 1%), the dosage released from a single delivery device actuation (e.g., 90 mcg [implied as per inhalation], 5 grams), the days supply or quantity in a package (e.g., 28 day, 60 grams).
NCPDP DoseUnitOfMeasure Terminology A set of terminology for NCPDP that contains concepts of the intended dose unit of measure (e.g. tablet, drop, puff, mL, lozenge) as presented in the medication directions for use (sig). The purpose of this subset is to state dosing quantities, therefore the concepts contained within may not be the same, or appropriate, units used for dispensing/billing.

Also included on the NCI EVS ftp site ( are the following additional files:

About (This file)
Changes.txt (A text file of changes between the most recent and the current version of NCPDP terminology. For each change record, the Changes.txt contains a complete row of tab delimited data with the same data elements as described above. An "A" will precede any new concept additions, a "C" will precede any modification to existing concepts, and a "D" will precede any concepts that have been deleted.)
Version.txt (A text file that contains the version of NCI Thesaurus that corresponds to the current spreadsheet data. The database is reconciled the last Monday of every month. The files will be posted during the following two weeks. The version appears as YR.MOweek. An example is 11.02d which corresponds to the year 2011, the month of February, and the "d" refers to the fourth Monday of the month.)
N.B.: If there are no changes to the data for a particular month, the files will not be reposted. An update via the LISTSERV will be sent with this information.
Contact Information and Updates: Additional terms may be suggested at the Term Suggestion page; please indicate NCPDP as the project. An NCIEVS NCPDP LISTSERV has been created for end users' questions and for update notifications. Please visit the following link to sign up for the LISTSERV and search for NCPDP.

Archived files are available at:
Archive/ Directory of dated release versions.

Help requests on these files should go to

* Internet Explorer users will need to change the default .zip extension to .xlsx to view the spreadsheet data.