In a paper published in BMJ Open, researchers looked at claims of benefit for interventions offered by fertility centres in the UK via the information on the centres’ websites. They then looked at what evidence was cited for these claims. They report that while many fertility centres in the UK offer a range of IVF add-on procedures, and provide claims of benefit for many of these interventions, in most cases the claims are not quantified and evidence is not cited to support them.
The Panorama documentary on BBC One (Panorama: Inside Britain’s Fertility Business) also looks at this issue.
Richard Kennedy, President of the International Federation of Fertility Societies, said:
“The BMJ paper adds to the increasing national and international concerns about the unregulated addition to standard IVF of a range of processes often with no or only poor quality evidence for their benefit.
“Patients who already are commonly paying out of pocket are vulnerable to unjustifiable claims that add-ons may increase the chances of pregnancy which may in some cases double the cost of standard IVF as well as adding potential risk to treatment.
“Patients deserve and should be provided objective and accurate information to enable informed decision making and we call upon professional organisations, health funders and regulators to promote evidence based practice and increase cost effective access to treatment.”
Dr Yakoub Khalaf, Director of the Assisted Conception Unit & Centre for Pre-implantation Genetic Diagnosis, King’s College London, said:
“It’s great to see that evidence based medicine is under the spot light particularly in IVF where a lot of interventions lack robust evidence to support their use. I hope these issues highlighted by the BMJ paper would strengthen the case for funding sound and credible research in these areas, particularly preimplantation genetic screening which is expensive and could be potentially harmful.
“At Guy’s it has always been our contention that what does not add value to treatment should not add to the bill.”
Prof Adam Balen, Chair of the British Fertility Society (BFS) said:
“The field of reproductive medicine and IVF is evolving continuously and the UK has led the world with research into fertility treatments.
“New treatments and approaches are always being evaluated and it is important that patients receive full information about everything that is being offered, the current evidence for benefit and whether there are any side effects or risks associated with it.
“It is the role of the BFS and of healthcare professionals to support and provide reliable information on any treatment being considered and those looking after fertility patients have their best interests at heart.
“Some treatments need further and higher quality research into their effectiveness which will add to the existing evidence base and better inform patients.
“Currently the NHS does not provide adequate funding for fertility treatments, contrary to NICE recommendations. The BFS is actively campaigning to improve the situation nationally and abolish the postcode lottery. Many patients are required to self-fund treatment and so it is essential that they are made clear exactly what they are being charged for.”
* ‘Claims for fertility interventions: a systematic assessment of statements on UK fertility centre websites’ by E. A. Spencer et al. was published in BMJ Open on Monday 28th November.
± Panorama: Inside Britain’s Fertility Business was broadcast on BBC One at 20:30, Monday November 28
All our previous output on this subject can be seen at this weblink: http://www.sciencemediacentre.org/tag/ivf/
Prof Adam Balen, No relevant COIs
None others received