Productivity Benefits of Medical Care: Evidence from US-Based Randomized Clinical Trials
One of the key recommendations of the Second Panel on Cost-Effectiveness in Health and Medicine is to take a societal perspective when evaluating new technologies—including measuring the productivity benefits of new treatments. Yet relatively little is known about the impact that new treatments have on labor productivity. To examine the relationship between new drug treatments and gains in labor productivity across conditions in the United States and to evaluate which randomized clinical trials (RCTs) collected labor productivity data. We collected data on US-based RCTs with work-ability surveys from searches of Google Scholar, PubMed, Scopus, the Cochrane Central Registry of Clinical Trials, and ClinicalTrails.gov. Combining RCT data with survey data from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, we assessed productivity changes from new drug treatments. During the last decade, some disease conditions have seen treatments that improve ability to work by as much as 60%. The annual increase in productivity gains attributable to new drug treatments was modest 1.1% (P = 0.53). Of the 5092 RCTs reviewed, ability-to-work measures were collected in 2% of trials. Work productivity surveys were more likely among prevalent medical conditions that affected individuals who worked, earned higher wages, and experienced larger reductions in hours worked as a consequence of disease diagnosis. From our data, we estimated that drug innovation increased productivity by 4.8 million work days per year and $221 billion in wages per year. These labor-sector benefits should be taken into account when assessing the socially optimal cost for new drug innovation.