Background Postnatal and antenatal anti-D prophylaxis have dramatically reduced maternal sensitisations and cases of rhesus disease in babies born to women with RhD negative blood group. Recent scientific advances mean that non-invasive prenatal diagnosis (NIPD), based on the presence of cell-free fetal DNA in maternal plasma, could be used to target prophylaxis on "at risk" pregnancies where the fetus is RhD positive. This paper provides the first assessment of cost-effectiveness of NIPD-targeted prophylaxis compared to current policies. Methods We conducted an economic analysis of NIPD implementation in England and Wales. Two scenarios were considered. Scenario 1 assumed that NIPD will be only used to target antenatal prophylaxis with serology tests continuing to direct post-delivery prophylaxis. In Scenario 2, NIPD would also displace postnatal serology testing if an RhD negative fetus was identified. Costs were estimated from the provider's perspective for both scenarios together with a threshold royalty fee per test. Incremental costs were compared with clinical implications. Results The basic cost of an NIPD in-house test is £16.25 per sample (excluding royalty fee). The two-dose antenatal prophylaxis policy recommended by NICE is estimated to cost the NHS £3.37 million each year. The estimated threshold royalty fee is £2.18 and £8.83 for Scenarios 1 and 2 respectively. At a £2.00 royalty fee, mass NIPD testing would produce no saving for Scenario 1 and £507,154 per annum for Scenario 2. Incremental cost-effectiveness analysis indicates that, at a test sensitivity of 99.7% and this royalty fee, NIPD testing in Scenario 2 will generate one additional sensitisation for every £9,190 saved. If a single-dose prophylaxis policy were implemented nationally, as recently recommended by NICE, Scenario 2 savings would fall. Conclusions Currently, NIPD testing to target anti-D prophylaxis is unlikely to be sufficiently cost-effective to warrant its large scale introduction in England and Wales. Only minor savings are calculated and, balanced against this, the predicted increase in maternal sensitisations may be unacceptably high. Reliability of NIPD assays still needs to be demonstrated rigorously in different ethnic minority populations. First trimester testing is unlikely to alter this picture significantly although other emerging technologies may.
Bibliographical noteThe full text is available here: http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/1471-2393-11-5
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