Objective: Indirect costs result from diminished productivity and are incorporated in cost-benefit analysis to guide health resource allocation. Valuing the productivity impairment of those not involved in labor market activities is controversial but important for diseases affecting predominantly women if allocation decisions are to be economically efficient and equitable. We compared indirect costs incurred by women with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), a prototypical women's disease, calculated under varying assumptions for the value of diminished labor market and non-labor market activity.
Methods: Six hundred forty-eight female patients with SLE reported on employment status and time lost by themselves and their caregivers from labor market and non-labor market activities over a 6 month period.
Results: Average annual indirect costs ranged from $1,424 to $22,604 (1997 Canadian dollars) dependent on the value assigned to labor market and non-labor market activity.
Conclusion: Indirect cost estimates that fail to consider longterm labor market absenteeism and diminished non-labor market productivity and do not use gender neutral wages to value labor market activity may lead to decisions that jeopardize resources for women's diseases.