News Roundup [abridged Versions Appear In The Paper Journal]

UK academics gain free access to database of patients

BMJ 2005; 331 doi: (Published 20 October 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;331:924
  1. Zosia Kmietowicz
  1. London

    The Medical Research Council is hoping to boost research in the United Kingdom by paying for a five year licence that will allow academic groups free access to the general practice research database.

    The database, which holds primary care records on more than nine million patients in the UK and which has been running since 1987, has provided researchers from all over the world with epidemiological data for more than 450 research papers.

    However, the fee attached to accessing to the database may have deterred some groups from conducting studies in the past, says the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, which has operated the database since 1999.

    The licence, the cost of which has yet to be agreed, will fund 50 projects to use the database free of charge each year for five years. It will also pay for extra staff and a support service.

    Kent Woods, chief executive of the agency, said: “The GPRD [general practice research database] has long been recognised as the gold standard of primary care databases. This exciting initiative will provide UK academia with the access they need to utilise this resource for high quality public health research, something that is a high priority for both MHRA [Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency] and the MRC [Medical Research Council]. I look forward to seeing the fruits of this collaboration over the period of the agreement and beyond.”

    Of the published research papers that have used the database so far, about a third stem from UK academic groups. It is hoped that launch of the free access service will increase this proportion significantly.

    Mick Foy, head of operations for the database, said: “This widens the playing field to more people, allowing greater access to high quality data. Academic groups will be able to come to us with the knowledge that the data supply side of things has all been paid for. We will talk to them about their research proposal [and] their data requirements and help them do their studies.”

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