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Cheap, efficient IVF in eastern Europe

1 July 2004
By BioNews
Appeared in BioNews 265

The European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE) has suggested that the recent expansion of the European Union (EU) could lead to a rise in UK and other western European couples travelling to eastern Europe for fertility treatment. Data revealed at the ESHRE annual conference in Berlin, Germany, shows that the availability of assisted reproduction techniques (ARTs) in eastern European countries that have newly joined the EU is similar to that in the west of Europe, but the cost of treatment is generally much lower.

Dr Anders Nyboe Andersen, of the Rigshospitalet at Copenhagen University in Denmark, presented preliminary data from the ESHRE European IVF Monitoring Programme for 2001 at the conference. This showed that some eastern European countries are performing more fertility treatments than western nations and some are achieving success rates for IVF and ICSI (intracytoplasmic sperm injection) that are as good as the highest success rates in the west.

Denmark was shown to have the highest availability of fertility treatments in Europe - as it had for the previous years' statistics - with 1,923 cycles performed per million citizens in 2001. The UK performed only 593 cycles per million, which was similar to the number carried out in Hungary (578 cycles per million). Slovenia, another eastern European country recently admitted to the EU, ranked fifth overall, with 1122 cycles per million. In the UK, where there is limited availability of IVF on the National Health Service, the average cost of one private IVF cycle is over £2000, and often closer to £4000, but in Hungary and Slovenia the cost could be much lower, as the price of the drugs used is cheaper. Additionally, while the pregnancy rate for IVF per embryo transfer in the UK is around 28.4 per cent, it is 36.2 per cent in Slovenia and 31.9 per cent in Hungary.

Europe-wide data should continue to be collected, said Professor Karl Nygren, co-author of the report, to ensure that potential patients have 'accurate and complete' information about the discrepancies between treatment availability and success rates in various countries. He added that the enlargement of the EU 'means that it is vital that potential patients can compare not only prices, but also the quality and efficacy of the treatments on offer'. When asked what he thought about people travelling to other countries for cheaper treatment, he responded 'we see fertility tourism as a negative sign that shows something is not functioning in your own country', but he warned that couples should think very carefully before travelling for IVF, as 'experience of coping in a foreign country far from home and family could be highly stressful'.

SOURCES & REFERENCES
Cheaper IVF 'Could Tempt Britons to Go East'
The Scotsman |  30 June 2004
EU enlargement may spark fertility tourism-experts
Reuters |  30 June 2004
The hidden dangers of IVF tourism in Europe
The Daily Telegraph |  1 July 2004
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