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This is the third in a series of studies looking at the returns from cardiovascular (CVD) research [], the literature that assesses the value of the benefits of medical research forms a relatively limited field in terms of methodology and quality. Firstly, a ‘top down’ approach where overall health gains in a disease area are related to research investments, but this requires an estimate of how much of the total health gain can be attributed to medical research investments.

Following consultation with a number of experts (see acknowledgements) we used Chapter XIII of the 10th revision of the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD), known colloquially as ICD 10 Chapter XIII [].

One advantage of using Chapter XIII of ICD 10 is that it is also the basis of the musculoskeletal category in the HRCS, meaning that, in many cases, research investment and health outcomes are defined using the same criteria.

Expressed in 2013 prices, total expenditure on MSD-related research from 1970 to 2013 was £3.5 billion, and for the period used to estimate the rate of return, 1978-1997, was £1.4 billion.

Over the period 1994–2013 the key interventions analysed produced 871,000 QALYs with a NMB of £16 billion, allowing for the net NHS costs resulting from them and valuing a QALY at £25,000.

Whilst ‘cancer’ has the highest proportion of spend and highest DALY rate (ca.

20%), the combined health research categories ‘cardiovascular’, ‘blood’ and ‘stroke’, have approximately 16% of burden, but only 9% of the spend.

Our estimate of the IRR from the net health gain to public and charitable funding of MSD-related research in the United Kingdom is substantial, and justifies the research investments made between 19.

We also demonstrated the applicability of the approach previously used in assessing the returns from cardiovascular and cancer research.

These investments are intended to improve health for patients and the public. Such information provides accountability to taxpayers and charity donors, and increases our understanding of how research effectively translates to health gains.

In this paper, we examine the economic returns from musculoskeletal disease (MSD) research.

The age group most commonly affected (50 years old) tends to fall predominately outside of the active labour force.