The number of practices contributing to it has been increased by 25% this year and it now links to a wider range of NHS databases, an MHRA spokeswoman said.
This wider reach will allow the database to be used for observational studies on rarer conditions as well as research on medicines used by small numbers of patients.
The GPRD now includes data from 593 practices. It also links to central mortality data, so that dates and causes of death can be ascertained and to additional data on hospital admissions, down to ward level.
It also now links to registries of cancer and myocardial infarction, allowing more detailed disease-related studies, and long-term follow-up.
Developments are also now underway to allow the GPRD to move beyond retrospective and observational studies, the spokeswoman said.
‘GPRD is now enabling interventional studies that include the collection of samples for genetic analysis in conjunction with GPRD's longitudinal and high quality data and the addition of patient reported outcomes,’ she said.
‘A further step forward relates to enabling the database to be used in "point of care" clinical trials that are a highly efficient and cost-effective way of undertaking a randomised study that may be required.’
Such randomisation allows researchers to remove confounding created by differences between patients groups that cannot be adjusted for in statistical analysis.
Two such studies, one on statins and another on antibiotic use in non-purulent COPD are close to starting, she said.