A new study initiated this month by five leading research funders and institutions will estimate the health and economic benefits of UK investment in medical research into musculoskeletal conditions.
Supported by Arthritis Research UK, The Wellcome Trust, the Medical Research Council, the Department of Health and the Academy of Medical Sciences, this is the third in a series of health economic studies which have focused on the return on public and charitable investment in medical research.
Following previous studies on cardiovascular disease and cancer research, which demonstrated that medical research investment generates significant health and economic gains over the long term, the new study will focus on research into musculoskeletal conditions, including inflammatory forms of arthritis, conditions of musculoskeletal pain such as osteoarthritis, and osteoporosis.
The research team will be led by Professors Jonathon Grant (King's College London) and Martin Buxton (Health Economic Research Group, Brunel University). Supported by leading clinical experts from across the sector, they will identify the most important research-based interventions that have led to reduced morbidity and mortality from musculoskeletal disease and that have provided health gain over a 20-year period. Using their established methodology, the value of health gain from these interventions will be estimated, and set against the public and charity funding in the field. The wider economic benefits leveraged by research investment will also be considered.
For the first time, the study will also examine the international flow of knowledge into clinical guidelines and the extent of private funding leveraged by research.
Dr Liam O'Toole, chief executive officer at Arthritis Research UK said:
"Arthritis and musculoskeletal conditions affect ten million people in the UK. Everything we do is driven by knowledge to positively impact on what matters to people with arthritis. We are delighted to be working in partnership on this important study which will establish the benefits research has had on improving the health outcomes of people with arthritis. The findings will be of great interest."
Chief medical officer, Professor Dame Sally Davies said: "We want to make the NHS among the best in Europe at supporting people with long-term conditions such as arthritis and musculoskeletal conditions, and be confident that we are using research funds well to facilitate this. This latest study will quantify the value of the research funded by government and charities where the main outcome is an improved quality of life for patients."
Professor Sir John Tooke PMedSci, President of the Academy of Medical Sciences said: "In times of high competition for public funding, it is increasingly important to demonstrate the benefits of medical research to the economy as well as healthcare.
"The medical sciences community has demonstrated a long-standing commitment to evaluating the economic impact of its research.
"This new study represents the latest instalment of a larger programme aimed at quantifying the economic returns of different areas of medical research by the Academy and partners, which has so far considered cancer, cardiovascular disease and mental health."
Professor Jonathon Grant, director of the Policy Institute at King's College London said: "This study will complement previous work to assess the economic returns from biomedical and health research, and we are delighted to have this opportunity to validate and further refine our methodology.
"The impact of research on musculoskeletal disease is an important area to investigate because it is not dominated by changes in smoking behaviour, as in our studies on cardiovascular disease and cancer.
"Furthermore, changes to morbidity are much harder to measure than mortality and musculoskeletal disease has clear morbidity components involved such as treating back pain. We hope that this study will provide insight into the benefit of research to this range of diseases."