A report has revealed rapidly rising rates of autoimmune conditions are costing the UK billions each year.
The report shows direct and indirect costs to the UK for just three autoimmune conditions alone – Type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis – currently add up to more than £13 billion per year. There are more than 80 autoimmune conditions known to science.
The report from Connect Immune Research, a group of medical research charities, shows that many autoimmune conditions are becoming more common, with some increasing in incidence by as much as 9% each year – potentially meaning further increased costs in the future. Medical science does not yet know the reason for the rise, and the charities are campaigning for change in the way research is approached.
Autoimmune conditions see the body’s immune system mistakenly attack healthy cells in the body. Examples include Type 1 diabetes, coeliac disease, multiple sclerosis (MS), psoriasis, and rheumatoid arthritis. The report claims rising incidence and costs mean autoimmunity in the UK needs greater recognition and investment as a distinct research area, alongside the likes of cancer, infectious disease and dementia.
There are four million people in the UK known to be living with at least one autoimmune condition. But the Connect Immune Research report highlights that people often live with more than one autoimmune condition, a fact the charities describe as “underreported”.
Daniel M. Davis, Professor of Immunology, University of Manchester and author of The Beautiful Cure: “Bringing together autoimmune charities and research teams to tackle the underlying causes of autoimmune conditions is a no-brainer.
“The immune system is today one of the best understood parts of the human body. With so many details in hand, and so many new medicines being developed to nudge the power of immunity up or down, the time is right for us to come together to try and defeat autoimmune disease once and for all.”
For different autoimmune conditions, incidence is increasing at ranges between 3% and 9% year on year. This includes:
- 7.0% increase per year of rheumatic diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis
- 6.3% increase of endocrinological conditions such as Type 1 diabetes
- 3.7% increase of neurological such as MS
- Coeliac disease shows the greatest increase per year at about 4–9% a year
The £13bn costs per year for the UK include the following condition-specific costs:
- £2.6bn for multiple sclerosis
- £8.7bn for rheumatoid arthritis
- £1.9bn for Type 1 diabetes
The report also highlights how Wellcome and the Medical Research Council (MRC) supported the development of Connect Immune Research, and that the MRC has since set up its own initiative to help bring immune researchers working on different conditions together.
For more information on Connect Immune Research go to www.jdrf.org.uk/connect
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