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Research-based cardiovascular treatments

4 Aug 2015

22 million patients have benefited from UK public and charity research into cardiovascular disease treatment and prevention between 1985 and 2005, according to a report commissioned by the MRC, Wellcome Trust and Academy of Medical Sciences (AMS) (reference 1).

This report provided the first quantitative estimates of the economic benefits of publicly and charitably-funded medical research in the UK. It estimated the total value of the quality-adjusted life years (QALYs) (reference 2) gained from the cardiovascular interventions included during this period to be around £69bn (reference 3).

The study further calculated that for each pound invested by the taxpayer or charity donor in cardiovascular disease research, a stream of benefits is produced equivalent to a return of 39 pence each year.

The MRC has made a substantial contribution to the interventions included in this research. MRC-supported research showed that routinely using blood-thinning drugs such as aspirin and warfarin (reference 4) and cholesterol-lowering statins (reference 5) in patients at high risk of heart disease significantly reduced the incidence of heart attacks and strokes, leading to changes in clinical guidelines.

MRC research also identified that a transient ischaemic attack (TIA or mini stroke) was an important risk factor for a major stroke (reference 6). This led to a change in the medical response to a TIA, with it now being classed as a ‘medical emergency’ and prioritising those patients for investigation and treatment.

An MRC-funded clinical trial showed that stroke patients are more effectively treated in specialist stroke units, reducing death and dependence by 22 per cent (reference 7). This research has led to an increase in the number of patients managed in stroke units from 18 to 62 per cent from 2000 to 2012. The NICE clinical pathway for stroke now recommends direct admission to a stroke unit for all suspected stroke patients for initial investigations and treatment. MRC research also showed that immediate CT imaging was the most efficient and cost-effective imaging strategy in diagnosing and preventing acute stroke (reference 8).


  1. Health Economics Research Group, Office of Health Economics, RAND Europe. Medical Research: What’s it worth? Estimating the economic benefits from medical research in the UK. London: UK Evaluation Forum; 2008.
  2. A measure of the state of health of a person or group in which the benefits, in terms of length of life, are adjusted to reflect the quality of life. One QALY is equal to one year of life in perfect health. NICE definition.
  3. 2005 prices. The upper and lower estimates were £91bn and £55bn respectively.
  4. REF case study: Antiplatelet Therapy for Preventing Heart Attacks and Strokes.
  5. REF case study: Statin Therapy for Preventing Heart Attacks and Strokes
  6. REF case study: Reduction of Stroke Risk by Risk Stratification and Urgent Intervention after a Transient Ischaemic Attack (TIA) or Minor Stroke.
  7. REF case study: Stroke Units: Research driven excellence in quality stroke care.
  8. REF case study: Immediate CT scanning in acute stroke improves outcomes for patients and is very cost effective, whereas arteriography and MR scanning are not cost-effective in secondary prevention.


  • Categories:
  • Health categories: Blood, Cardiovascular
  • Strategic objectives: Tissue disease and degeneration
  • Locations:
  • Type: Success story