Investing in medical research yields healthy returns

Every £1 invested in medical research delivers a return equivalent to 25p every year, a new study shows.

Coloured X-ray of anti-inflammatory injection into shoulder to treat rheumatoid arthritis

Credit: Zephyr/Science Photo Library

Investment into research to find new therapies for musculoskeletal conditions has outstanding economic and health benefits.

Through taxes and donations, the government, charities and the public invest significant sums of money into medical research. The peer-reviewed 'What’s it worth?' study shows that this investment delivers outstanding benefits for the economy, as well as for people’s health.

What’s medical research worth?

Over the past 10 years, Wellcome and other funders have supported a number of 'What’s it worth?' studies to better understand the economic impact of medical research.

This latest study, the third in the series, focuses on musculoskeletal diseases. These conditions, which include inflammatory forms of arthritis, osteoarthritis, back pain and osteoporosis, affect around 10 million people in the UK.

The research team was led by Professor Jonathan Grant from King’s College London and Professor Martin Buxton from Brunel University. They calculated investments into musculoskeletal disease research over several decades, and worked with disease experts to link research findings to changes in clinical practice.

Their findings are published in Health Research Policy and Systems. They show that every £1 of public or charity money invested in musculoskeletal disease research yields patient benefits and economic gains equivalent to a return of 25p a year, forever.

On average it takes 16 years for an initial investment to lead to new NHS therapies for musculoskeletal conditions, showing the importance of long-term support for research.

The study sits alongside previous research focusing on cancer, cardiovascular disease and mental health.

More information

  • A What's it worth? [PDF 149KB] briefing is available summarising the findings of this study, alongside those of the wider 'What’s it worth?' series.
  • Wellcome supports this work in partnership with Arthritis Research UK, the Medical Research Council, the National Institute for Health Research and the Academy of Medical Sciences.
  • Read more about government investment in research