UK open data stance: bold or brash?

A UK proposal to make anonymous patient data available for pharma company research elicited cheers and jeers.

Part of a package of reforms unveiled by prime minister David Cameron last month, the proposal was intended to integrate medical research more closely with the NHS and biopharma.

Such drugmakers as Glaxo­SmithKline, as well as academics, hailed Cameron's plan. With privacy safeguards, “access to real data on patient treatment…could help to cut drug development costs and spur rapid innovation,” wrote the Financial Times in an op-ed.

However, medical societies and others warned that data could still include age profiles and post codes, which can be used to trace identities. “We are concerned that elements of the government's proposals could, if implemented, undermine patient confidentiality,” said the British Medical Association in a statement.

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