The pharmaceutical industry is urging the NHS to be more open to research projects which could illuminate the wider societal benefits of treatment.

A report from the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, published today, suggests the “cradle to grave” health system and the extensive patient data held by the NHS makes the UK “uniquely placed” to become a centre for excellence for “real world” data.

Increasingly in demand, real world data monitors drug use once a substance is on the market to identify its wider benefits.

ABPI director of medical and innovation Allison Jeynes-Ellis told HSJ the industry has historically found it difficult to have real world research approved by NHS trusts, often losing out to academic studies.

She said the inconsistency between decisions made by different NHS trusts’ research and development boards was wide, and there were problems accessing the vast amounts of anonymised data held by the NHS.

The ABPI report The Vision for Real World Data recommends improving incentives for the NHS to engage in real world trials and develop a more standardised approval process.

The information provided by real world research about the wider societal benefits of a drug – for example a patient being able to return to work – and the burden of illness, is likely to be crucial to determining the value of a drug under the value based pricing scheme, due to replace the current pharmaceutical price regulation scheme for new drugs from 2014.

However, Dr Jeynes-Ellis said the demand for real world data was also growing worldwide, and that making the UK an attractive place for research would build on the UK’s international reputation gained through the widely respected health technology assessments coordinated by the National Institute for Health Research.