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The National Care Record Service (CRS), if it is ever deployed, certainly offers amazing potential for pharmaceutical research. The whole COX2/NSAID debacle could have been rapidly resolved by access to the complete prescription records of 55 million people.
But this article sent shudders down my spine about how the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry would like to use the service.1 Dr Barker is quoted as saying it would allow drug companies to easily identify patients fitting a trial's inclusion and exclusion criteria.
Not using anonymised data, it wouldn't. I suppose it might tell you how many potential candidates there were, but that shouldn't be too hard to figure out anyway. Anonymised data use for adverse events surveillance is one thing; non-anonymised data to identify potential trial candidates, presumably followed by a direct approach to invite them to join a drug trial, are another matter entirely.
This use is clearly in conflict with current data protection legislation—but Dr Barker should realise this. So why did he propose it?
Competing interests: None declared.