Cystic fibrosis screen proves cost-effective

Newborn screening for cystic fibrosis (CF) is cost-effective and should be introduced across the UK as soon as possible, say researchers.

Analysis of data from the UK CF database showed that newborn detection of CF could reduce treatment costs up to four fold, compared with clinical diagnosis.

But a third of the UK, including Manchester, Cumbria, London, the Home Counties and areas in the south-west such as Dorset and Wiltshire still lack newborn CF screening facilities.

This is despite government agreement to national roll-out of newborn CF screening in 2001. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland now have full coverage.

The latest study looked at the treatment costs of 184 children aged between one and nine who were diagnosed with CF through newborn screening.

Comparison with 950 children in the same age range who were diagnosed with clinical presentation of the disease, showed that newborn screening cut costs by 60-400 per cent.

Detecting CF in newborns means chronic infection can be prevented, delaying the need for nebulised antibiotics, which can cost up to £7,000 a year, said Dr Jim Littlewood, chairman of the Cystic Fibrosis Trust.  

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