The last decade has seen a surge in the use of computerized health care data for pharmacoepidemiology. Of all European databases, the General Practice Research Database (GPRD) in the UK, has been the most widely used for pharmacoepidemiological research. Since 1994, this database has belonged to the UK Department of Health, and is maintained by the Office of National Statistics (ONS). Currently, around 1500 general practitioners with a population coverage in excess of 3 million, systematically provide their computerized medical data anonymously to ONS. Validation studies of the GPRD have documented the recording of medical data into general practitioners' computers to be near to complete. The GPRD collects truly population-based data, has a size that makes it possible to follow-up large cohorts of users of specific drugs, and includes both outpatient and inpatient clinical information. The access to original medical records is excellent. Desirable improvements to the GPRD would be additional computerized information on certain variables and linkage to other health care databases. Most published studies to date have been in the area of drug safety. The General Practice Research Database has proved that valuable data can be collected in a general practice setting. The full potential of this rich computerized database has yet to come. This experience should serve to encourage others to develop similar population-based data in other countries.