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Impact of Migraines on Workplace Productivity

On average, migraine sufferers lost one workday every three months and worked about nine days during the month with a migraine. The annual economic toll on employers could add up to nearly $29 billion in direct and indirect health-care costs.

Thursday, November 1, 2007
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When a migraine strikes, it can cause a decline in work productivity, make it difficult to concentrate and lead to missed workdays.

Migraines take a toll on employers as well -- up to $28.7 billion in annual direct and indirect health-care costs can be attributed to migraine-related losses in productivity, according to data presented in May at the 59th Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Neurology in Boston, Mass.

The data, from research sponsored by Ortho-McNeil Neurologics, Inc., reinforced the benefit for employers to acknowledge and assess the impact of migraine to potentially improve workplace productivity. The data also suggested workers consider potential treatment options that may help them prevent or reduce the frequency of migraine attacks.

The analysis found that employers who actively screen for migraine may help identify those undiagnosed with the condition.

The researchers also evaluated the total burden of migraine in the workplace and found that more than 50 percent of the migraine sufferers surveyed experienced moderate to severe disability due to the condition, often affecting job performance and leading to missed workdays.

"Migraine can have a significant impact in the workplace," says study investigator Jennifer Lofland, project director and an associate professor with the Department of Health Policy at Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University.

"If migraine can be effectively managed during the workday, it may lead to cost savings for employers over the long run," she says. "One approach patients may want to consider is taking a preventive medication to help reduce the frequency of migraine attacks and potentially lead to more migraine-free days."

Screening for Migraine at Work

Researchers determined that the use of a brief, online screener may help to detect those undiagnosed for migraine in an employer setting and is easy to administer.

Researchers from the Center for Health Economics and Policy at United BioSource Corp., developed an online tool based on a validated screener (Lainez et al.), to help determine the prevalence of migraine in the workplace.

Three large employers in the United States were recruited to participate in the online study that compared the screening results with patient-reported migraine diagnoses.

The results revealed that more than 90 percent of employees who reported a previous migraine diagnosis screened positive for the condition. In addition, nearly 30 percent of respondents who met the screener criteria for migraine were undiagnosed.

Burden of Migraine at Work

In the same study, researchers aimed to assess the total burden of migraine in the workplace including impact on productivity.

The researchers compared employee responses to the online screener with results from a baseline survey investigating migraine frequency and severity, treatment patterns and total impact of migraine at work during a three-month period.

Study results revealed that more than 50 percent of people with migraines experienced moderate to severe disability in the previous three months due to the condition.

On average, one workday was missed per employee due to migraine, while the average days worked while having a migraine was 8.9 days.

Direct medical costs were $200,410 per 1,000 migraine sufferers and indirect costs, including absenteeism (hours absent from work) and presenteeism (hours worked with migraine with reduced efficiency), were $404,660 per 1,000 migraine sufferers.

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From a treatment perspective, more than 70 percent of respondents reported having frequent and/or disabling migraines and may be candidates for preventive treatment.

However, only 15 percent were taking a daily preventive migraine therapy. Forty-eight percent reported taking a prescription medication for migraine symptom relief, and 79 percent reported taking a non-prescription medication.

About Migraine

Migraine is a chronic, debilitating condition that is under-diagnosed, undertreated and misunderstood.

Approximately 30 million Americans suffer from migraines, and less than half are properly diagnosed with the condition. Migraines most commonly occur between the ages 30 and 49, a time when people are actively involved in the workforce.

Recently, the American Migraine Prevalence and Prevention Study showed that almost 98 percent of people with frequent migraines take medications, but a large majority reported their lives are still negatively impacted by the pain and disability associated with migraine.

In addition, approximately 40 percent of frequent migraine sufferers could benefit from preventive therapy, yet only 13 percent typically are on a migraine preventive medication.

Source: Ortho-McNeil Neurologics Inc., Titusville, N.J., which sponsored the research as part of a study on its FDA-approved Topamax migraine preventive medication.

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