Led by Jennifer Lofland, PharmD, MPH, Ph.D., of Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, the researchers analyzed data on 325 working adults with a history of migraine attacks. Half of the workers were randomly assigned to daily treatment with a prophylactic medication – topiramate, an anti-convulsant used frequently for the prevention of migraines – while the other half took an inactive placebo.
When reductions in presenteeism and absenteeism were added together, total lost productive time per month decreased significantly for workers taking topiramate. Use of topiramate resulted in an increase of 9.5 hours of work productivity from a loss of 14.6 hours before treatment to 5.1 hours during treatment.
However, lost productive time also decreased for workers taking the inactive treatment, reflecting a significant "placebo effect" in studies of topiramate. Nevertheless, the gain in productivity remained higher with topiramate – especially in terms of reduced presenteeism.
Treatment with topiramate had only a small effect on work absenteeism. Average missed work time was 1 hour per week for workers taking topiramate, compared to 1.5 hours per week for those taking the placebo.
“The results of our study suggest that employers should have treatments available for their employees with migraines that reduce both presenteeism and absenteeism in the workplace,” the researchers conclude.
Study Believed to Be the First of its Kind
The analysis was based on previous studies showing topiramate's effectiveness in reducing the frequency of migraine attacks but did not measure the number of hours worked with migraine headache.
According to the researchers, the study is believed to be the first to measure the effect of a migraine preventive medication on both absenteeism and presenteeism, using data from multiple randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trials.
Like other chronic diseases, migraines can cause substantial losses in worker productivity. The researchers note that migraines are most common among people in their 30s and 40s, a time when they are active members of the work force.