Study Quantifies Impact of Pharmaceuticals on Enhanced Productivity

Andrea Hofelich,,  202-827-2078
Julie Jette,, 617-636-7431

(WASHINGTON, DC, August 1, 2012)–The costs to employers of chronic health conditions on employee productivity are well documented, but few studies have captured the impact that medicines may have on reducing those costs. A new study conducted by Tufts Medical Center and the National Pharmaceutical Council demonstrates a novel approach to measuring productivity, using depression and arthritis as case studies.

The study, “Imputing Productivity Gains from Clinical Trials,” found that therapies to treat depression yielded a 0.9 percent to 2.2 percent improvement in employee productivity. Taking medicine to treat arthritis or other musculoskeletal pains is associated with productivity gains of up to 0.5 percent. The study was published in the July issue of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

To arrive at the figures, researchers from the Center for the Evaluation of Value and Risk in Health (CEVR) at Tufts Medical Center used a new method for imputing productivity effects. This method estimates productivity gains associated with changes in clinical measures using the Work Limitations Questionnaire (WLQ) developed by Debra Lerner, MS, PhD, and her colleagues at the Tufts Medical Center Program on Health, Work and Productivity.

“With this method, we’ve been able to assess the value of increased productivity, which previously was rarely captured or quantified,” said Joshua Cohen, PhD, Deputy Director of CEVR.  “Employers are seeking better information about the value of new pharmaceuticals and treatments.” 

The study results are valuable to employers as they make decisions about health care and pharmaceutical benefits. Although modest in percentage terms, the incremental value of a 1 percent gain associated with an employee who earns $50,000 a year would be a $500 gain in productivity and could cover a significant portion of the cost for a particular medication for that employee.

“Using the methodology developed for this study, we can go back and review clinical trial results for other conditions through the lens of workplace productivity,” said NPC Chief Science Officer Robert Dubois, MD, PhD. “With this improved understanding of the way pharmaceuticals enhance productivity, employers will have more information in hand to guide decisions on structuring health benefits plans.”


About the National Pharmaceutical Council

The National Pharmaceutical Council is a health policy research organization dedicated to the advancement of good evidence and science, and to fostering an environment in the United States that supports medical innovation. Founded in 1953 and supported by the nation’s major research-based pharmaceutical companies, NPC focuses on research development, information dissemination, and education on the critical issues of evidence, innovation and the value of medicines for patients. For more information, visit and follow NPC on Twitter @npcnow.


About the Center for the Evaluation of Value and Risk in Health at Tufts Medical Center

Founded in January 2006 by Peter Neumann, ScD, and Joshua Cohen, PhD, the Center for the Evaluation of Value and Risk in Health (CEVR) analyzes the benefits, risks and costs of strategies to improve health and health care.  CEVR undertakes projects to determine the cost-effectiveness of health care interventions, advance methods development, and help train the next generation of practitioners. We also seek to inform national clinical and public health policy issues. Finally, CEVR has developed and maintains two internationally-known databases that are indispensable resources for health care stakeholders: the Cost-effectiveness Analysis Registry and the National Coverage Determinations Database.  CEVR conducts customized analyses for government agencies, private foundations and industry groups. In all our work, we maintain our research independence and freedom to publish.  For more information, visit or follow CEVR on Twitter @CEARegistry.


About the Program on Health, Work and Productivity

The Program on Health, Work and Productivity focuses on health improvement in the working-age population. From the employee's perspective, health problems may interfere with the ability to participate fully in the labor market. And for employers, health problems may translate into diminished productivity and increased employee turnover - concerns that ultimately affect the bottom line. This program conducts interdisciplinary research on both the impact of health problems on employees and employers and develops new intervention strategies to improve health and functioning and reduce productivity loss. The program’s Work Limitations Questionnaire (WLQ) is used worldwide by employers, health and wellness firms, pharmaceutical firms, researchers and insurers to assess the impact of health and treatment on work productivity. The Program is collaborating with both individual employers and employer coalitions to improve data on employee health and to develop strategies for employee health and functional improvement and productivity-loss prevention.  The program is directed by Debra Lerner, MS, PhD, Senior Scientist and Professor of Medicine and Psychiatry. Key contributors to this program include David Adler, MD, and William H. Rogers, PhD.


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