A study of people living with the devastating effects of multiple sclerosis (MS) has shown the true economic cost of living with the incurable, life-long condition.

The independent research is one of the largest ever studies into the financial impact of MS and has revealed that the cost of being diagnosed with MS is on average nearly GBP17,000 per person. Care provided informally by families accounts for more than 70% of this.

For the 85,000 living with the condition, this works out to be a total expense to the economy of GBP1.4billion, making MS second only to tumours as the most costly brain condition across Europe.

Worse still, the study found that among the nearly 2,000 people surveyed from across the UK, half said they had to leave work due to their MS, pushing the figure to more than GBP25,000 per person when lost employment is added.

Daniel Berry, head of policy and campaigns at the MS Society, said: "This research shows the shocking cost of living with MS.

"It has been proven to be economically viable to keep people with MS as healthy as possible and in work for as long as possible and this study shows how cutting corners in health and social care is counter productive.

"At a time when the government is running headlong into even more debt, these figures underline the enormous costs of inaction. Long term investment in research and in support for carers would pay dividends for people living with MS and for the whole economy."

The Costs of MS study analyses the economic cost, quality of life and disability associated with MS and the independent research was carried out for the MS Society by Dr Paul McCrone from Kings College London and published in the peer reviewed journal of Pharmacoeconomics.

Dr McCrone said: "The costs associated with MS are substantial. Most of the service costs are hidden as they represent care provided by family members.

"It is crucial that evaluations of any new treatments or forms of care should assess their impact on carer costs as well as the costs of statutory services."

The study has shown that the cost of MS can be broken down as follows:

Informal care GBP1,021 million (72%)
Professional care GBP245 million (17.2%)
Medication GBP115.5 million (8.1%)
Aids and adaptations GBP37.1million (2.30%)
Medical tests GBP5.7million (0.4%)

With bills for care from family and friends estimated to be worth more than a billion pounds alone and the cost of home adaptations running into tens of millions, it is no surprise that MS Society grants for financial advice and assistance are in high demand.

MS Society