JOEM Paper Estimates Costs of Rheumatoid Arthritis Absences

The authors estimate the national indirect costs of RA-related absenteeism were $252 million annually from 1996 to 2002.

Authors of a paper published this month in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine estimated that the national indirect costs of absences related to rheumatoid arthritis (RA) were were $252 million annually from 1996 to 2002. The journal is the official publication of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

ACOEM reported that Jennifer H. Lofland, PharmD, MPH, Ph.D., of Janssen Scientific Affairs, LLC (Horsham, Pa.) and colleagues used national health survey data from 1996 to 2006 to estimate the impact of work absenteeism due to RA. They described RA as a chronic inflammatory disease that leads to destruction of joints, writing that it "is associated with severe long-term disability."

In the sample of 90,000 working Americans, about 0.3 percent reported having RA; nearly three-fourths of the workers with RA were women.

Their analysis found 67 percent of workers with RA had missed work days, compared to 58 percent of those without RA. Among RA employees with absences, missed work time averaged about 14 days per year, compared to 10 days for those without the disease.

The difference of four missed work days produced extra costs of approximately $600 per employee per year, the authors concluded, adding that the number of missed work days declined between the late 1990s and early 2000s, perhaps reflecting the use of newer, more aggressive treatment strategies for the disease.

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