CAPS - Coding Atlas for Pharmaceutical Substances

CAPS is a pharmaceutical classification system devised by the Family Medicine Research Centre and used in the Centre's general practice research since the 1980s. Its structure has been developed and expanded over the years to allow identification of all products currently used in Australian general practice.

CAPS is in constant use by the FMRC to code medication data and is therefore updated every two months to include all new drugs prescribed, supplied or recommended (over the counter) by general practitioners. Any changes to code or label are linked to the old code or label so that no data are lost in analysis. These changes are documented in an Excel spreadsheet, which is included in the quarterly release of data to clients.

CAPS is mapped at the generic level to the Anatomical Therapeutic Chemical (ATC) classification index of the World Health Organization. Each generic code is mapped to the corresponding ATC fifth level code, and all brand names from the one generic are mapped to the same ATC code. This allows data to be analysed using either the international ATC classification of non-proprietary medications or the CAPS classification system, or both.

It is a hierarchical system divided into drug groups and sub-groups based on anatomical site and therapeutic utility. The CAPS database contains over 11,500 alphanumeric codes, each of which can be accessed for analytical purposes at any of six levels: group, sub-group, generic (composition of drug), proprietary brand name, product, form, or brand identifier (used when one manufacturer has more than one brand of the generic).

For example: Flucloxacillin Liquid 125 mg 5 ml = A10800103113:

Company code
Drug form
A108 001 03 1 13

Every pharmaceutical product in use in Australian general practice has a separate record in the CAPS database. Each record also contains extra fields that add information on strength, measure, quantity and volume. This enables a daily dose to be calculated.

Jan Charles is the contact person for all matters relating to CAPS and pharmaceutical classification enquiries.