Employed MS Patients Have Lower Productivity, Reduced Health-related Quality of Life, Study Shows

Iqra Mumal, MSc avatar

by Iqra Mumal, MSc |

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RRMS and employed workers study

Employed individuals with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS) have lower work productivity, reduced health-related quality of life, and use more healthcare resources than individuals who do not have multiple sclerosis (MS), a new study shows.

The study, “Burden of relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis on workers in the US: a cross-sectional analysis of survey data,” was published in the journal BMC Neurology.

MS is frequently diagnosed among individuals of working age (20–60 years); as a result, the disease can present a higher burden on work productivity. However, there is limited data available about absenteeism and presenteeism   among employed individuals with MS in comparison to people without MS.

(Absenteeism is the practice of regularly staying away from work, while presenteeism is defined as employees coming to work despite having an illness and, as a consequence, performing their work under suboptimal conditions.)

American researchers now have conducted a study to quantify the burden of illness among employed U.S. adults with RRMS, the most prevalent form of MS. Researchers performed a retrospective cross-sectional analysis using patient-reported responses from the U.S. National Health and Wellness Survey (NHWS) 2015–2016.

Data from 196 employed RRMS respondents were analyzed. These patients were matched in a 1:4 ratio to employed individuals without MS, based on demographic and general health characteristics.

Work productivity (including absenteeism, presenteeism, and work impairment), health-related quality of life (HRQoL), and healthcare resource utilization were compared between RRMS and healthy controls.

Researchers found that only 36.1% of the surveyed respondents with RRMS were employed at the time of the study (average age 45.2 years). When comparing outcomes between the two groups, results revealed significantly lower health status among respondents with RRMS relative to healthy controls.

Importantly, researchers found that absenteeism and presenteeism were 2 and 1.8 times higher, respectively, in the employed RRMS population compared to the employed non-MS population.

HRQoL, which was measured using the Short Form-36 and EQ-5D, was significantly lower for employed respondents with RRMS than those without MS. Researchers also found that employed respondents with RRMS used  significantly more healthcare resources during a six-month period compared to those without MS.

Furthermore, among employed respondents with RRMS, greater levels of impairment were associated with increasing disease severity, cognitive impairment, fatigue, and greater healthcare resource use, while it was inversely correlated with mental and physical HRQoL.

“Among employed individuals, respondents with RRMS had lower work productivity, HRQoL, and higher HCRU [healthcare resource use] as compared with those without MS,” the researchers concluded.

According to the team, reducing disease symptoms, through the use of disease-modifying therapies for instance, potentially could decrease the associated burden and work force impact. This is particularly important in the context of RRMS, as individuals often are diagnosed in early to middle adulthood when they are part of the workforce.

“Given the large impact RRMS has on work impairment, a need exists to manage individuals on therapies that improve HRQoL, reduce symptoms, and improve their ability to perform in the workforce,” the researchers suggested.

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