The Use of Economic Evaluation to Inform Newborn Screening Policy Decisions: The Washington State Experience

Original Investigation

Policy Points:

  • Newborn screening not only saves lives but can also yield net societal economic benefit, in addition to benefits such as improved quality of life to affected individuals and families.
  • Calculations of net economic benefit from newborn screening include the monetary equivalent of avoided deaths and reductions in costs of care for complications associated with late-diagnosed individuals minus the additional costs of screening, diagnosis, and treatment associated with prompt diagnosis.
  • Since 2001 the Washington State Department of Health has successfully implemented an approach to conducting evidence-based economic evaluations of disorders proposed for addition to the state-mandated newborn screening panel.

Context: Economic evaluations can inform policy decisions on the expansion of newborn screening panels. This article documents the use of cost-benefit models in Washington State as part of the rule-making process that resulted in the implementation of screening for medium-chain acyl-CoA dehydrogenase (MCAD) deficiency and 4 other metabolic disorders in 2004, cystic fibrosis (CF) in 2006, 15 other metabolic disorders in 2008, and severe combined immune deficiency (SCID) in 2014.

Methods: We reviewed Washington State Department of Health internal reports and spreadsheet models of expected net societal benefit of adding disorders to the state newborn screening panel. We summarize the assumptions and findings for 2 models (MCAD and CF) and discuss them in relation to findings in the peer-reviewed literature.

Findings: The MCAD model projected a benefit-cost ratio of 3.4 to 1 based on assumptions of a 20.0 percentage point reduction in infant mortality and a 13.9 percentage point reduction in serious developmental disability. The CF model projected a benefit-cost ratio of 4.0-5.4 to 1 for a discount rate of 3%-4% and a plausible range of 1-2 percentage point reductions in deaths up to age 10 years.

Conclusions: The Washington State cost-benefit models of newborn screening were broadly consistent with peer-reviewed literature, and their findings of net benefit appear to be robust to uncertainty in parameters. Public health newborn screening programs can develop their own capacity to project expected costs and benefits of expansion of newborn screening panels, although it would be most efficient if this capacity were shared among programs.

Author(s): Scott D. Grosse, John D. Thompson, Yao Ding, and Michael Glass

Keywords: neonatal screening, economics, cost-benefit analysis, cystic fibrosis, MCAD deficiency

Read on Wiley Online Library

Volume 94, Issue 2 (pages 366–391)
DOI: 10.1111/1468-0009.12196
Published in 2016