Drug companies should be given easier access to NHS patient data, GlaxoSmithKline boss claimed.
Dame Emma Walmsley urged Rishi Sunak to ‘keep pushing’ his team to ‘do more’ – arguing that handing over anonymised files of millions of Britons would ‘prevent and treat diseases more effectively’.
Such data, while stripped of identifying details, may include patient diagnoses, symptoms experienced, test results, and medications taken, as well as minor details about physical, mental, and sexual health.
Pharmaceutical companies view this data as a treasure trove, allowing them to sift through years of data to uncover hidden patterns that may open new avenues for treatment.
For example, it could provide insight into the benefit of certain drugs and how they work in day-to-day clinical practice.
Dame Emma Walmsley urged Rishi Sunak to ‘keep pushing’ his team to ‘do more’ – arguing that handing over anonymised files of millions of Britons would ‘prevent and treat disease more effectively’
Mr Sunak praised Dame Emma’s ‘great point about datasets’ at yesterday’s Business Connect conference, which was attended by around 200 high-profile CEOs and business leaders
Speaking at a conference in London yesterday, where the Prime Minister was answering questions from business leaders, Dame Emma said: ‘The strength of the UK is unique datasets that can really transform research and development and especially healthcare outcomes.
“We hope you keep pushing your teams to do more here.”
Dame Emma, GSK’s managing director, added that it would help them ‘prevent and treat diseases more effectively, and alleviate some of the pressure on the NHS and government budgets’.
Mr. Sunak praised Dame Emma’s “great point about datasets” at yesterday’s Business Connect conference, which was attended by some 200 high-profile CEOs and business leaders.
What is in my health file from the GGD?
The information in your records may allow your:
- Age and address
- Health conditions
- Treatments and medicines
- Allergies and previous drug reactions
- Tests, scans and x-ray results
- Specialist care, such as maternity care or mental health care
- Lifestyle information, such as whether you smoke or drink
- Hospital admission and discharge information
He said, ‘You’re absolutely right about the power of innovation. That’s how we drive growth in a modern economy.
“We need to make sure that in your industry, for example, this is the country where companies want to go to discover drugs, where it’s easy to research the drugs that will keep us safe and healthy in the future. ‘
But campaigners have repeatedly raised concerns about talks about releasing NHS data to pharmaceutical companies.
Critics argue that there are no appropriate safeguards to prevent data from falling into the wrong hands and that there is little transparency about what happens to data after it has been shared.
Others have warned that patients can still be identified through anonymous data.
Campaigners have also questioned the true purpose of giving pharmaceutical companies access to records, claiming that this could help them increase profits.
Jake Moore, a global cybersecurity advisor at ESET Internet Security, told MailOnline today, “Giving openness to private data poses the challenge of who gets access, which attracts threat actors ranging from wannabe hackers to nation-state attackers.”
He added: “The balance between progress and the right to privacy is incredibly difficult, but becomes even more challenging when comments are made that do not fully understand the potential knock-on effects of giving access to private data.
“As with the encrypted communications debate with government, when we provide access to sensitive data, albeit through a single channel, it will inevitably be misused and so there are much bigger problems to overcome.”
NHS patient data contains information about the health of everyone in Britain over the past 70 years.
Some NHS data can already be shared with ‘other organisations’, if it is ‘necessary and proportionate’, NHS England said.
Consultancy firms and pharmaceutical companies have also bought up anonymous patient files in recent years. But organizations must adhere to strict rules, including licenses to purchase data
GSK played a key role in Britain’s war against Covid by developing jabs and antivirals. The multibillion-pound company is at the forefront of the UK life sciences industry, which is seen as a major growth area post-Brexit
Patients also have the right to request that their confidential information not be used outside of their own treatment.
Plans to allow an NHS system to extract patient data from GP practices in England by 2021 and make it available to third parties have angered patients.
It was part of a wider drive to ‘unleash the potential of data in health and care’, under plans originally put forward by former Health Secretary Matt Hancock.
GSK played a key role in Britain’s war against Covid by developing jabs and antivirals.
The multibillion-pound company is at the forefront of the UK life sciences industry, which is seen as a major growth area post-Brexit.
Elsewhere at the conference yesterday, Mr Sunak unveiled a £100 million fund to help develop a ‘secure’ form of artificial intelligence in the UK.
The Prime Minister said AI models such as ChatGPT have the potential to create “huge opportunities to grow our economy, create better, well-paid jobs and build a brighter future through advancements in healthcare and safety.”
Business leaders also accused him of scoring a ‘spectacular own goal’ for introducing the ‘perverse’ tourist tax.