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BMJ. 2007 April 21; 334(7598): 823.
PMCID: PMC1853196
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Screening newborns for cystic fibrosis pays off

A cost of illness study used data from the United Kingdom cystic fibrosis database for the year 2002 to compare treatment costs for 184 children diagnosed with cystic fibrosis as newborns through screening and 950 children diagnosed clinically when aged 1-9 years. The mean cost of treatment for children diagnosed through screening was $7228 (£3657; €5370), compared with $12 008 for children diagnosed later in life (median $352 v $2442; P<0.0001). Even greater financial benefits would probably have been shown if indirect cost savings had been included, say the authors.

The linked commentary (pp 1146-7) reminds readers that since the 1980s evidence has accumulated to support the clinical value of screening neonates. Early diagnosis by screening and early treatment have benefits for nutrition, growth, cognitive function, lung function, and longevity of people with cystic fibrosis. Most cost effectiveness studies to date have compared the costs of making the diagnosis, and this seems to be the first study to look at cost savings.

Perhaps more governments will now be persuaded to implement screening. Currently, Australia and New Zealand screen all newborns, 26 programmes are implemented in Europe, and 27 states in the United States screen their newborns for cystic fibrosis.


  • Lancet 2007;369:1187-95
  • Lancet 2007;369:1146-7

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