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HFEA to issue regulations on IVF add-ons

16 July 2018
Appeared in BioNews 958

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) will require fertility clinics to give patients full information about any IVF 'add-on' services being offered to them.

This new rule will ensure that patients seeking fertility treatment are fully informed before undertaking any extra procedures that have not been proven effective.

'Clinics tell us it's due to patient pressure,' said Sally Cheshire, chair of the HFEA. 'We're saying clinics need to be robust and ethical in what they offer, particularly if they're asking patients to pay for those treatments.'

'Add-ons' are optional procedures which aim to increase the chances of a successful pregnancy resulting from fertility treatment. Currently, 70 percent of fertility clinics in London offer add-ons, and the price for a single procedure can range from £400-£1000, according to Tech Times. However, the most commonly offered add-on treatments have either never been tested in clinical trials, or have not been tested thoroughly enough to demonstrate efficacy, according to the HFEA

Add-ons such as 'assisted hatching', which uses a laser, acid or other means to break through an embryo's protein coating to assist implantation, or 'time-lapse imaging', which tracks the development of embryos under a microscope, have not been proven to increase live birth rates. Similarly, 'reproductive immunology', which uses drugs to suppress the mother's immune system, not only lacks evidence demonstrating efficacy, but has been shown to be associated with harmful side-effects such as chronic infections, blood poisoning and severe allergic reactions. 

Two common add-ons, endometrial scratching and the 'Augment' treatment which injects more of the mother's own mitochondria into her eggs, have recently been shown to have no effect in clinical trials (see BioNews 957 here and here).

'There isn't anything particularly different as far as we're concerned,' said Cheshire. 'There's no effective evidence that these treatments work, and some of them may even be potentially harmful for some patients, which clearly isn't ethical.'

This new rule for add-ons is set to come into effect in October according to The Guardian, pending approval from the Health Secretary.

New IVF Regulation Protects Patients From Expensive And Potentially Dangerous Fertility Add-Ons
Tech Times |  9 July 2018
UK fertility regulator to issue new rules on expensive IVF add-ons
The Guardian |  9 July 2018
10 May 2021 - by BioNews 
An in-depth conversation between Sarah Norcross (director of the Progress Educational Trust) and Sally Cheshire (outgoing chair of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority)...
25 January 2021 - by BioNews 
This film documents a Progress Educational Trust event about consumer protection for fertility patients...
9 December 2019 - by Georgia Everett 
IVF clinics are seemingly 'embezzling' money from vulnerable patients by offering them unnecessary expensive add-ons to their treatment, according to a fertility expert...
16 September 2019 - by Rikita Patel 
The UK fertility regulator, the HFEA, has called for reforms in the way fertility add-on treatments are offered to patients, according to a consensus statement...
8 July 2019 - by Rikita Patel 
Wellness company Get A Drip has taken its 'fertility IV' drip off the market after the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) said there was no evidence its treatment could improve fertility...
3 July 2018 - by Shaoni Bhattacharya 
A controversial technique to super-charge patients' eggs with their own mitochondria before undergoing assisted reproduction does not improve success rates, suggests a new study...
3 July 2018 - by Shaoni Bhattacharya 
A common procedure, known as endometrial or womb 'scratching', as an add-on to IVF has been shown to have no effect on pregnancy or birth rates...
8 May 2017 - by Shaoni Bhattacharya 
The UK's fertility regulator, the HFEA, says it will be investigating a series of allegations concerning the fertility industry made by the Daily Mail newspaper last week...
3 April 2017 - by Antony Starza-Allen 
The controversial issue of IVF 'add-ons' – techniques and treatments offered to fertility patients on top of standard IVF – has been the subject of intense debate and media attention since last November's BBC Panorama's documentary, which claimed that many techniques advertised on fertility clinics websites were not backed up by good scientific evidence of success...
5 December 2016 - by Lucas Taylor 
There is a lack of quality evidence on the benefits of almost all fertility clinic add-on treatments, a study published in the BMJ has suggested...
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