Since its inception in the mid-1980s, the General Practice Research Database (GPRD) has undergone many changes but remains the largest validated and most utilised primary care database in the UK. Its use in pharmacoepidemiology stretches back many years with now over 800 original research papers. Administered by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency since 2001, the last 5 years have seen a rebuild of the database processing system enhancing access to the data, and a concomitant push towards broadening the applications of the database. New methodologies including real-world harm-benefit assessment, pharmacogenetic studies and pragmatic randomised controlled trials within the database are being implemented. A substantive and unique linkage program (using a trusted third party) has enabled access to secondary care data and disease-specific registry data as well as socio-economic data and death registration data. The utility of anonymised free text accessed in a safe and appropriate manner is being explored using simple and more complex techniques such as natural language processing.
Keywords: database; pharmacoepidemiology; primary care.