Objective: To assess the additional cost of incorporating the detection and treatment of retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) into neonatal care services of Brazil's Unified Health System (SUS).
Methods: A deterministic decision-tree simulation model was built to estimate the direct costs of screening for and treating ROP in neonatal intensive-care units (NICUs), based on data for 869 preterm infants with birth weight less than 1 500 g examined in six governmental NICUs in the capital city of Rio de Janeiro, where coverage was 52% and 8% of infants were treated. All of the parameters from this study were extrapolated to Brazilian newborn estimates in 2010. Costs of screening and treatment were estimated considering staff, equipment and maintenance, and training based on published data and expert opinion. A budget impact analysis was performed considering the population of preterm newborns, screening coverage, and the incidence of treatable ROP. One- and two-way sensitivity analyses were performed.
Results: In Rio de Janeiro, unit costs per newborn were US$ 18 for each examination, US$ 398 per treatment, and US$ 29 for training. The estimated cost of ROP diagnosis and treatment for all at-risk infants NICUs was US$ 80 per infant. The additional cost to the SUS for one year would be US$ 556 640 for a ROP program with 52% coverage, increasing to US$ 856 320 for 80% coverage, and US$ 1.07 million or 100% coverage.
Conclusions: The results of this study indicate that providing ROP care is affordable within the framework of the SUS in Brazil, and might be feasible elsewhere in Latin America, considering the evidence of the effectiveness of ROP treatment and the social benefits achieved.