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Botanical nomenclature in pharmacovigilance and a recommendation for standardisation.

  • Farah, Mohamed H
  • Olsson, Sten
  • Bate, Jenny
  • Lindquist, Marie
  • Edwards, Ralph
  • Simmonds, Monique S J
  • Leon, Christine
  • de Boer, Hugo J
  • Thulin, Mats
Published Article
Drug safety
Publication Date
Jan 01, 2006
PMID: 17061908


Nomenclature of plants in pharmacology can be presented by pharmaceutical names or scientific names in the form of Linnaean binomials. In this paper, positive and negative aspects of both systems are discussed in the context of the scientific nomenclatural framework and the systems' practical applicability. The Uppsala Monitoring Centre (UMC) runs the WHO Programme for International Drug Monitoring and is responsible for the WHO Adverse Drug Reaction (ADR) database that currently contains 3.6 million records. In order for the UMC to monitor pharmacovigilance through ADRs to herbal medicine products the following nomenclatural criteria are important: (i) the name should indicate only one species of plant; (ii) the source for this name must be authoritative; (iii) the name should indicate which part of the plant is used. Based on these criteria, the UMC investigated four options: (i) adopt main names used in recognised (inter-) national pharmacopoeias or authoritative publications; (ii) adopt option 1, but cite the publication for all names in abbreviated form; (iii) three-part pharmaceutical names consisting of Latinised part name plus Latinised genus name, plus Latinised specific epithet; (iv) scientific binomial names, optionally with author and plant part used. The UMC has chosen the latter option and will at its adoption utilise the scientific botanical nomenclature as defined by the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature. This decision satisfies all criteria set by the UMC and renders the necessity of creating a new system or upgrading an old inconsistent system obsolete. The UMC has also issued an extensive synonymy checklist of vernacular, pharmaceutical and scientific names for the herbals in the WHO ADR database. We strongly recommend the adoption of scientific names to denote plant ingredients in medicine.

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