Chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is generally considered an asymptomatic disease. However, studies have shown that HCV has a substantial negative impact on patients' quality of life and functioning. This study was designed to compare absenteeism, productivity, and health cost between employees with and without HCV infection in the United States. Employee records from multiple large employers in the United States were obtained from the Human Capital Management Services Research Reference Database and were assessed for demographics, salary, healthcare use, work loss, and workers' compensation. HCV-infected subjects were identified by International Classification of Diseases 9th revision Clinical Modification codes. Controls were randomly selected from employees not diagnosed with HCV. T-tests and chi-square tests were used to determine if there were differences in demographic characteristics. Regression modeling compared days absent (among benefit-eligible employees) and productivity (among employees with data on task-oriented activities), while controlling for the impact of confounding factors. A total of 339,456 subjects were evaluated. Employees with HCV (n = 1664) had significantly more lost work days per employee than the control cohort (n = 337,792), including sick leave, short-term disability, and long-term disability. HCV-infected workers had 4.15 more days of absence per employee than the control cohort. Productivity was measured by units of work processed per hour; employees with HCV processed 7.5% fewer units per hour than employees without HCV (P > 0.05). All healthcare benefit costs among HCV employees were significantly higher than the same costs among employees without HCV. Overall, the total incremental difference was $8352 per year.
Conclusion: This real world study provides evidence that there is a substantial indirect burden of illness and describes a relationship between HCV infection, productivity, increased absenteeism, and higher healthcare benefit costs.