Historical Overview

The GPRD was created in June 1987 as the Value Added Medical Products (VAMP) Research Databank. VAMP provided computerised general practitioner (GP) software and enabled GPs to contribute anonymised data to a central database for subsequent use in public health research. Subsequent to acquiring VAMP in 1993, Reuters Health Information donated the research database to the UK Department of Health in 1994

stipulating that the database be used exclusively for medical and public health research on a nonprofit-making basis. It was at this stage that the database was renamed GPRD. UK Health Ministers decided that the database should be self-financing and a licensing system was introduced whereby licencees paid a fee of £500 000 per annum. From 1994 until October 1999, the database was managed by the Department's Statistics Division and operated by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) (Lawson et al., 1998).

Data for the GPRD are collected from GPs using practice software supplied by In Practice Systems® (InPS) formally known as VAMP. Initially, this was restricted to the DOS VAMP Medical software but in 1995 the Microsoft Windows-based Vision software was introduced. The GPRD which researchers are familiar with comprises data solely from GPs using the VAMP Medical software. Although software was developed for collecting data from practices using Vision software, the licence fees did not generate sufficient revenues to allow modification of the GPRD to load and integrate data from these practices. Hence, several years of data were collected but not made available to researchers. The situation was exacerbated as the millennium approached and many practices began upgrading to Vision or other non In Practice Systems GP software. Doubts were cast on the future viability of the database.

Management responsibility for the database was transferred to the MCA in April 1999. The existing VAMP Medical GPRD database and its operating staff were transferred to the MCA in October 1999 when work commenced on developing the new "Full Feature'' GPRD. The MCA has invested £3 million in the GPRD to secure its future viability and utility, with an initial priority of making the data collected from Vision practices available to researchers. It recognises the GPRD as a critical resource to support drug development and post-licensing activities and a superb public health research tool, which it wishes to see used more widely.

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