Professor William Inman FRCP, FFCM.
The DSRU was founded by Professor W.H.W Inman in 1980. ‘Bill’ Inman battled against polio from his early days as a medical student in Cambridge in 1950 and qualified as a doctor despite the confines of his wheelchair. Bill was the first medical student to complete his studies entirely at Addenbrooke’s Hospital. In 1959 while at ICI trying to run clinical trials, he met the late Sir Derek Dunlop, first chairman of the DHSS’s Committee on Safety of Drugs. In 1964, he was recruited as a founding member of the permanent staff of the committee, later to be renamed the Committee on Safety of Medicines (CSM). His role was Medical Assessor of Adverse Reactions.
1966 saw him pioneer the first study which linked the Pill with thrombosis. Four years later, he showed that the dose of hormones could be reduced, increasing safety without reducing efficacy. This earned him the accolade ‘ Father of the mini-pill’.
Bill Inman developed the ‘yellow card’ scheme in which GPs are voluntarily invited to report their suspicions about drug hazards. In 1980, he was seconded to the University of Southampton by the DHSS through Sir Douglas Black, former president of the Royal College of Physicians who was at that time the DHSS’s Chief Scientist. He was to develop a more sophisticated and sensitive mechanism in order to monitor the safety of newly marketed drugs. He was appointed to the world’s first chair of Pharmacoepidemiology, the scientific study of drug safety and efficacy.
Being aware of the limitations of spontaneous reporting and influenced by the work of the eminent statistician, David Finney, Bill Inman established a system for Prescription-Event Monitoring (PEM) to monitor events of any suspected causality by the GPs. PEM was established with support from the eminent physicians of the time including Sir Richard Doll, and later became affectionately known as the Green Card system. For the 25 to 30 years that PEM existed in the UK in its original form, it was the envy of the world in relation to the collaboration with thousands of GPs in England who contribute information free of charge.