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by Dominic Tyer
The UK has launched a new online research service that will give life sciences companies unprecedented access to large sets of anonymised NHS patient data.
The government wants to provide “a world-class health research service” with the new Clinical Practice Research Datalink, which it says will also provide “novel and powerful ways” to undertake clinical trials.
Minister for universities and science David Willetts said: “The UK is a world leader in life sciences, but both the research base and industry tell us that we could make better use of data in order to drive medical breakthroughs.
“The Clinical Practice Research Datalink will provide researchers with access to safeguarded data that respects patient confidentiality. This will give valuable insights into serious health conditions and ultimately help reduce the time it takes to develop new treatments.”
The CPRD combines the General Practice Research Database (GPRD) run by the MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency) and Department of Health's National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Research Capability Programme.
It is the world's largest computerised database of anonymised longitudinal medical records from primary care that is linked with other healthcare data.
MHRA chief executive Professor Sir Kent Woods said: “The Clinical Practice Research Datalink will provide new data and research services that will improve the health of patients and also make the UK a world leader in life sciences research.”
The MHRA will host and manage the CPRD, which builds on the Research Capability Programme's pilot scheme. This pilot showed the availability of more population-based data and more linked data would have a beneficial effect on both observational and interventional research.
The new online service is a key part of the government's Plan for Growth and aims to help researchers to better understand the causes of illness and protect public health, while ensuring that the UK is “the place for new health research projects”.
Health Minister, Lord Howe, said: "This is an exciting and unique resource which will be of huge value to researchers as they develop new treatments to the benefit of patients right across the NHS. It will help cement our reputation as world leaders in life sciences research."
Specifically, the MHRA said it would be able to initiate “new surveillance methodologies helping all parties, including pharma companies, meet the public health needs of knowing about real world safety, effectiveness and the benefit-risk relationship”.
The UK last week unveiled tax reductions, including a 'patent box', to make the country a more competitive place for life science investment. The same week saw large investments from both GlaxoSmithKline and Eisai.