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Fertility Treatment

Lack of evidence to support the majority of IVF ‘add-on’ treatments

By Bud / 29th Nov, 2016

A damning new study released by the British Medical Journal has uncovered a shocking lack of scientific evidence to support the use of expensive IVF ‘add-on’ treatments

The financial burden of IVF for those seeking treatment is already immense. 59% of procedures are currently privately funded and the optional extras marketed as a way to increase your chances of giving birth can see the expense skyrocket.

However, new findings by the BMJ have shown that ‘most treatments offered by UK fertility treatment centres are not supported by good evidence’.

The research carried out by Oxford University’s Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine, and commissioned by BBC Panorama, tested the claims and evidence behind 27 ‘add-on’ treatments. Of these, 26 out of the 27 additional interventional treatments didn’t have any good scientific evidence that they would increase your chances of achieving a live birth.

Speaking to Panorama about the results Professor Carl Heneghan, Director for Evidence Based Medicine at University of Oxford stated:

“Some of these treatments are of no benefit to you whatsoever and some of them are harmful. I can’t understand how this has been allowed to happen in the UK.”

The governing body responsible for regulating the industry, The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, also said it was concerned about the rise of these add-ons but admitted it has “limited powers to stop clinics offering them, or to control pricing”. HFEA do publish information designed to give patients the facts they need before appraoching a clinic and provide a list of questions they suggest people ask before commiting to treatment but with so much missinformation – can we trust what we are being told by the professionals?

UK fertility pioneer Professor Robert Winston told Panorama:

“We need evidence based medicine, based on good rational trials with that treatment. They’ve not been done and until they’ve been done I’m not prepared to accept that these treatments are necessary.”

“They think they’re giving the patient hope and in my view that’s completely the wrong way to do this, you need to give the patient a treatment which is reliable.”

IVF is big business and it’s customers are those vunerable to being exploited – as one woman put it “I think if someone said if you cut off your hand you’ll have a baby, I think would have done it”. But whilst those calling for better quality evidence to be provided to help people make more informed choices about their treatment can only be a good thing has it and the programme rather missed the point?

Do you feel like you’ve been overcharged for costly ‘add-ons’ with your fertility treatment? Or do the possible benefits outway the costs?


Example costs of IVF ‘add-on’ treatments provided by BMJ…

Individual screening blood tests—start at £50
Embryoglue—up to £160
Intralipid infusions—up to £250
Endometrial scratch—up to £325
Assisted hatching—up to £450
Blastocyst culture—up to £800
Time lapse imaging—up to £850 for the Eeva time lapse incubator, up to £800 for the Embryoscope
Intracytoplasmic morphological sperm injection (IMSI)—up to £1855
Percutaneous epididymal sperm aspiration/testicular sperm extraction (PESE/ TESE)—up to £1600
Preimplantation genetic screening—£3500
Egg freezing packages—up to £8000


Watch Panorama: Inside Britain’s Fertility Business on BBC iPlayer

Read the full report in the BMJ

Written by Bud

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