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

10 Jan 2018

Research to tackle musculoskeletal conditions, such as osteoarthritis, back pain and osteoporosis, has delivered a significant long-term return on investment, according to new research co-funded by the MRC.

Every pound invested in musculoskeletal research has delivered an annual return equivalent in value to 25p every year, forever. The new findings, published in Health Research Policy and Systems, are the third in a series of studies which have measured the return on public and charitable investment in medical research.

The MRC, along with national organisations such as Arthritis Research UK (ARUK), the Academy of Medical Sciences, the National Institute for Health Research and Wellcome, supported the research.

This is the latest study in which scientists measured the value of research. In previous work, they looked at the return on investment from funding research on cardiovascular disease, mental health and cancer. The studies, across the board, found a return on investment in perpetuity that led to improvements in healthcare and tangible benefits to society.

Dr Ian Viney, Director of Evaluation at the MRC, said: “When tough decisions have to be made about where to invest public funds for the best economic return and benefit to the nation, it’s vital to have robust research showing the positive returns from medical research – both through improved health and from wider private sector investment.”

Viney continued: “UK medical research is skilfully coordinated across the country by public and charitable funding agencies, working closely with excellent research organisations. This study highlights how decisions to back excellent research can deliver significant benefits for society and how these benefits can be quantified.”

In the new research, scientists from King’s College London and Brunel University London 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.

The MRC has invested £15.1 million to support four musculoskeletal-themed consortia through the Stratified Medicine Initiative. These multidisciplinary consortia bring together academics, clinicians, industry and patients in order to gain a deeper understanding of the differing mechanisms of disease and treatment responses. In one such partnership with ARUK, in which the MRC has dedicated £4m, the aim is to enable early, effective treatment and improve care for around 500,000 people in the UK who are grappling with rheumatoid arthritis.

The MRC and ARUK also jointly-fund three research centres, a £5 million investment. They are the MRC-ARUK Centre for Integrated Research into Musculoskeletal Ageing, MRC-ARUK Centre for Musculoskeletal Ageing Research, ARUK-MRC Centre for Musculoskeletal Health and Work.

Dr Stephen Meader, Programme Manager for Musculoskeletal Health at the MRC, said: “The MRC is dedicated to understanding and treating musculoskeletal conditions so that we can create better health outcomes for those afflicted with painful conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis and osteoporosis.”

Dr Meader said: “These new findings emphasise that the research community is on the right track – funding this research is leading to huge benefits not for everyday patients, but also to the UK economy.”

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 causes of UK sickness absence.

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.


  • Categories: Research
  • Health categories: Musculoskeletal
  • Strategic objectives: Global health, Aim: Picking research that delivers, Aim: Research to people, Aim: Supporting scientists
  • Locations: London
  • Type: News article