A Cost-Effectiveness Analysis of Prenatal Carrier Screening for Cystic Fibrosis

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To examine the cost-effectiveness of prenatal carrier screening for cystic fibrosis.


A cost-benefit equation was developed that was based on the hypothesis that the cost of prenatal diagnosis required to diagnose and prevent one case of cystic fibrosis should be equal to or less than the lifetime cost generated from the birth of a neonate with cystic fibrosis. The formula was adjusted because a woman's positive or negative carrier status remains unchanged, thus eliminating the need for testing in subsequent pregnancies. The formula was manipulated to identify the optimal cost per screening test, as well as the net cost savings per prenatally diagnosed case of cystic fibrosis for various racial or ethnic groups. Sensitivity analyses included some key assumptions regarding the cost per screening test ($50–150), patient screening acceptance rates (25–100%), and therapeutic abortion rates (50–100%).


Assuming therapeutic abortion rates of 50–100%, the net savings per prenatally diagnosed case of cystic fibrosis are $58,369–$382,369 among whites. Given the previously reported patient screening acceptance rates of 50–78%, the overall annual cost savings in the United States for whites are $161–251 million. However, the screening program was not found to be cost-effective for blacks, Asians, or Hispanics.


Under most assumptions and sensitivity analyses, a prenatal cystic fibrosis-carrier screening program appears to be cost-effective.

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