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Medical Research: What's it worth?

Estimating the economic benefits from medical research in the UK

This report provides the first quantitative estimates of the economic benefits of public and charitably funded medical research in the UK.

Acting on the recommendation of the UK Evaluation Forum, the Wellcome Trust, the Medical Research Council and the Academy of Medical Sciences commissioned this study to develop methodology and calculate the economic benefits of public and charitably funded medical research in the UK.

The research involved the development of a methodology to calculate the health and economic gains from investments in medical research, using cardiovascular disease and mental health research as case studies. The work demonstrated that the health (using quality adjusted life years) and economic (GDP) gains to the UK attributable to public and charitable funding of research (and 'spillovers' to the private sector) represent a substantial rate of return. For each pound invested by the taxpayer or charity donor in cardiovascular disease and mental health research, a stream of benefits is produced equivalent to earning 39 pence and 37 pence respectively each year 'in perpetuity'.

The researchers estimate that the time lag between research expenditure and eventual health benefits is around 17 years. Going forward, the work raises a number of questions about how to assess, for example, the economic impact of non-disease-specific research, the impact of international research on the UK, and the time lag between research the development of treatments - finding ways to shorten the time lag between research and health impact is likely to improve the rates of return from research investment.

The work was conducted by a consortium involving the Health Economics Research Group at Brunel University, the Office of Health Economics and RAND Europe.

Download the full report ‘Medical Research: What's it worth?’ [PDF 2MB]

Download the briefing on key findings [PDF 240KB]

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