Objective: The objective of this work was the investigation of the extent to which the introduction of new drugs has increased society's ability to produce goods and services by increasing the number of hours worked per member of the working-age population. Methods: Econometric models of ability-to-work measures from data on approximately 200,000 individuals with 47 major chronic conditions observed throughout a 15-year period (1982-1996) were estimated. Results: Under very conservative assumptions, the estimates indicate that the value of the increase in ability to work attributable to new drugs is 2.5 times as great as expenditure on new drugs. Conclusions: The potential of drugs to increase employee productivity should be considered in the design of drug-reimbursement policies. Conversely, policies that broadly reduce the development and utilization of new drugs may ultimately reduce our ability to produce other goods and services.