A survey of fertility experts' attitudes towards issues surrounding fertility treatment has revealed unease with the speed of new procedures being introduced to the market without more thorough clinical testing. 182 experts responded to the survey conducted by the British Fertility Society (BFS), the Science Media Centre, and the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE). A total of 46.2 per cent of respondents agreed that clinical or embryological procedures are being offered to patients too quickly with 85 per cent agreeing that there is a need for more clinical trials to establish the efficacy of fertility treatments.
In a press release issued with the results, Dr Mark Hamilton, Chair of the BFS, said 'obviously people who are desperate to have a child will want to pursue every avenue possible but this survey shows that experts themselves are keen not to exploit this vulnerability and want to ensure that we have the same standards of evidence based clinical practice as we have with other routine medical treatments'.
Professor Siladitya Bhattacharya, an expert on reproductive medicine at Aberdeen University, agreed that IVF patients can be susceptible to pressure to try new techniques to maximise the chances of pregnancy. 'There is often a great demand from patients who get frustrated with multiple failures of IVF,' she said, adding 'they read about new treatments on websites and when patients are desperate, they will try anything'.
Other attitudes revealed in the survey include over 40 per cent who believe the provision of IVF should be conditional on lifestyle choices, such as denying access to smokers. Another important issue the experts were asked about included funding for state provision of IVF, with over 70 per cent of respondents agreeing that infertile couples across Europe should be offered publicly funded infertility treatment and that too many couples are required to pay for treatment.
Dr Allan Pacey, Secretary of the BFS, said that 'the fact that so many experts now believe that IVF should be made freely available to patients through the NHS should be a wakeup call to Government and those who decide how NHS money is spent. These bodies have scandalously failed to move anywhere near the recommended NICE (National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence) guidelines of three rounds of IVF per patient'.