Because the incidence of both neonatal respiratory distress syndrome and neonatal mortality can be reduced by giving corticosteroids to women expected to deliver preterm and by giving surfactant to babies at high risk of developing hyaline membrane disease, we have considered what effects the adoption of one or both of these preventive policies would have on the costs of neonatal care. We have estimated the effects of treatment from overviews of the relevant controlled trials, and estimated costs from observations of care at one neonatal unit. Our results suggest that if either of these policies is adopted for all babies under 35 weeks' gestation at a drug cost of 150 pounds or less/baby, the overall costs of care would be reduced by between 1 and 10%. The cost per survivor would be reduced by up to 16% even if the drug cost were to be as high as pounds 550/baby. If the policies were to be adopted only for babies under 31 weeks' gestation, both policies would result in a reduction in cost of between 5 and 16%/survivor, although the increased survival resulting from the policies would lead to an increase in overall costs for babies of less then 31 weeks' gestation of between 7 and 32%.
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