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You are here: Home arrow News arrow October 2007 arrow Fertility drugs 'a waste of time and money'
Fertility drugs 'a waste of time and money' Print

October 2007

Fertility injections are a waste of time and money and could be dangerous, doctors warn.

The hormone-based drugs are given to thousands of women each year to boost egg production ahead of artificial insemination.

If the woman fails to conceive, she will normally then try IVF, which is both more complex and more expensive.

But research shows that the drugs, which cost up to ?1,000 per cycle, do little to increase the chance of pregnancy.

In addition, they raise the likelihood of risky multiple births and of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome, a potentially fatal condition in which the ovaries are unable to cope with the extra eggs released.

Researcher Dr Richard Reindollar said women would be better off skipping treatment with the drugs, which are based on follicle stimulating hormone, or FSH, and going straight to IVF.

Fast-tracking the process would mean a woman becomes pregnant more quickly and spends less money, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine's conference heard.

Dr Reindollar, of the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Centre in New Hampshire, said: "An accelerated approach to IVF results in an equivalent percentage of pregnancies, at an increased rate, and a lower cost."

Speeding up the process by bypassing FSH injections would also mean that women would have to take less time off work and reduce the emotional trauma of months of fertility treatment.

Dr Reindollar made his recommendation after tracking the progress of more than 500 women undergoing fertility treatment. All the women started treatment by being given artificial insemination in conjunction with a pill that slightly increases egg production.

Those who did not become pregnant were then split into two groups. The women in the first group were given FSH injections, which can greatly boost egg production, along with artificial insemination. If they had still not become pregnant, they were given IVF. Those in the second group were fast-tracked straight to IVF.

There was little difference in pregnancy rates between the two groups. However, those in the fast-track group took an average of eight months to become pregnant - three months less than those who had the injections.

The analysis also showed that going straight to IVF cut the total cost of treatment by around ?5,000 per patient.

British fertility doctors said that while official guidelines do not recommend the use of FSH injections, they are commonly used in private clinics.

Dr Mark Hamilton, chairman of the British Fertility Society, said: "This illustrates how important it is for patients to have treatment that is effective, and not to have unnecessary procedures that delay the institution of that effective treatment.

"Patients embarking on assisted reproduction therapy should discuss with their doctors the effectiveness of interventions, and make a judgment on whether to take on treatments with a lower chance of success than IVF."

Professor Bill Ledger, of Sheffield University, said not prescribing FSH injections would free up more money for fertility treatment on the NHS.

"If we try to do IVF cheaply and don't waste money doing clever things we can get more babies per investment," he added.

The healthcare watchdog, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, only recommends FSH injections are used for women suffering from endometriosis, in which problems with the lining of the womb can cause infertility.

 
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