Skip to main content

10 January 2018

Every £1 invested in medical research delivers a return equivalent to 25p every year, forever

A Policy Institute study reveals the economic benefits of medical research

Medical research
Medical research

Research to tackle musculoskeletal conditions, such as osteoarthritis, back pain and osteoporosis, has delivered a significant long-term return on investment, according to a new study by Policy Institute researchers, published today in Health Research Policy and Systems.

The study – which was carried out in collaboration with the  Health Economics Research Group at Brunel University London and  RAND Europe – is the third in a series of studies which have revealed the return on public and charitable investment in medical research. This work demonstrates that every pound invested in medical research has delivered an annual return equivalent in value to 25p every year, forever. This is an outstanding return on investment which represents significant improvements in health as well as real benefits to the UK economy.

Supported by Arthritis Research UK, the Academy of Medical Sciences, the Medical Research Council, the National Institute for Health Research and Wellcome, this study extends previous work which focused on cardiovascular disease, mental health and cancer research.

In this latest research, the research team identified key research-based interventions that have led to reduced morbidity and mortality from musculoskeletal disease over a 20-year period. These ranged from novel drug therapies for inflammatory arthritis to advice for people with back pain to remain active.

The overall value of health gain from these musculoskeletal health interventions was estimated and set against the public and charity investment in the field. Finally, the wider economic benefits leveraged by research investment were considered, to generate the return on investment figure. This equated to health benefits of 7p, with a further 15-18p in benefits to the wider economy, every year. 

Around 10 million people in the UK are affected by musculoskeletal conditions, including inflammatory forms of arthritis, osteoarthritis, back pain and osteoporosis. These painful conditions limit people’s quality of life and are one of the leading cause of UK sickness absence. However, this latest study demonstrates that research to tackle musculoskeletal conditions not only results in improved health outcomes but also generates economic gain.

In the UK – where more people give to medical research than to any other charitable cause – this new evidence indicates that research investment by the UK government and medical research charities continues to be money well spent.

Professor Jonathan Grant, Professor of Public Policy at the Policy Institute, King’s College London, said:

“This study shows that publicly and charitably funded research into musculoskeletal disease in the UK generated significant health gains over a 20-year period, improving lives and delivering substantial economic benefits in the process. Every £1 invested in such research produced direct health benefits equivalent in value to 7p, with a further 15-18p in benefits to the wider economy, every year.

“The findings were in line with the previous studies in this series, which when taken together, show that biomedical research generates a return of 25p for every £1 invested. These studies demonstrate the importance of maintaining government investment in biomedical research, and help show that taxpayers’ and charitable organisations’ money is being well spent.”

Dr Liam O’Toole, Chief Executive Officer, Arthritis Research UK, said:

“This report shows that the returns on investing in musculoskeletal research are long lasting not only to the individual, but also to the wider economy. 

"Arthritis is an extremely painful condition that can make everyday tasks such as getting out of bed, climbing the stairs or putting socks on difficult. We fund exceptional science to find breakthrough treatments that will help people push back the limits of their arthritis.

"Without investing in musculoskeletal research, treatments such as the breakthrough Anti-TNF therapy wouldn’t be available today. It’s treatments like these that help to make everyday life better for the millions of people with arthritis.”

Read the article in Health Research Policy and Systems

Related departments