16 June 2003
ByAppeared in BioNews 212
Private fertility clinics face a 'crackdown' on the number of embryos they implant in patients, according to a Sunday Times report highlighting new findings that are due to be published in July. The study, carried out by health economist Christopher Jones at Oxford University, reveals that medical care for twins and triplets conceived through IVF costs around £60m per year. Jones says the problem occurs because some private clinics routinely implant two or three embryos, rather than the one or two recommended by Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) guidelines.
Suzi Leather, chair of the HFEA, said that the study would be a vital element in a forthcoming public consultation on measures to reduce IVF multiple births. 'The clinics have a moral responsibility for this problem' she said, adding that it was vital to abolish the risk of triplets and to reduce the number of twins to naturally occurring levels. HFEA figures reveal that in 2001, 4,621 single babies, 3,158 twins and 327 triplets were born following IVF treatment at private clinics in the UK. The £60m figure in Jones' study is based on the extra cost involved in delivering twins and triplets, and their care during infancy. Leather says that one solution lies in providing more IVF treatment through the NHS.
Another study highlighting the incidence of IVF multiple pregnancies was published in the Medical Journal of Australia last week. The authors, based at the Royal Women's Hospital, Carlton, Victoria, call for all women undergoing fertility treatment to consider transferring a single embryo in any one IVF attempt.