Monday, 5 December 2011

For the Greater Good...

As a rule I am usually against data being kept on an individual for anything other than the purpose with which it was given.  Data sharing etc usually falls against this for me.  However I find the BBC's reporting of the NHS - Life Sciences partnership to be pretty poor as, unless I'm missing something, I don't see the proposed reforms to be "opening up to private companies".

As far as I am concerned, surely opening up anonymised patient data to private companies would be an excellent way for them to ensure that research is targeted where it is needed the most.  So their own investments can be put to their most efficient use and used to help treat as many people as possible.

A key part of this though is that it must be anonymous.  Patients don't want private health companies to have detailed history of their past ailments as this is open for massive exploitation.  As long as all unnecessary data is removed (leaving behind perhaps just that which may be pertinent to the problem) then there should be no worry about breach of privacy.  

I think many people are just concerned with other people making money out of their records.  I can also see how private companies suddenly getting a huge amount of data, potentially for free could seem exploitative, especially given the high cost that exists for companies to conduct similar research themselves.  However charging them for it would create barriers to entry which could limit some research.  Perhaps the best bet would be for the information to act as effectively a part payment against future drugs, reducing future costs to the NHS.

At the end of the day, as far as medicine is concerned, all I think people should care about is that as many people are treated as effectively as possible without prejudice.  If this helps increase the effectiveness then I'd be for it.


  1. I recommend reading the book 'Testing Treatments - better research for better health care' By Imogen Evans et al.

    This could raise questions about the nature of the Cameron proposals...

    btw Ben Goldacre of 'Bad Science' fame is writing a book about how to make the drugs companies better serrvants of health. Due out in 2012. I suspect what he will have to say will illuminate this upcoming debate.

    Testing Treatments text is available to download free at the website

  2. Thanks, I by no means claim to know a lot about the proposals, these were just my initial thoughts. Before I write anything else on the matter I'll gladly read through your recommendations.