Leading fertility and adoption experts have called upon the Canadian government to fund three cycles of IVF for women under 42 in the state of Ontario. The Ontario Expert Panel on Fertility and Adoption, which released its report last week, recommended the province should fund IVF as well as including proposals to reform the adoption system.
The report acknowledged that cost was the major obstacle for those seeking treatment with one cycle costing around $10,000. ‘These recommendations will go a long way toward helping couples face infertility issues - their implementation will make both infertility treatment and adoption more accessible and affordable,' said Beverly Hanck, Executive Director of the Infertility Awareness Association of Canada. Supporters said it was only ‘equitable' to fund fertility treatment as with other medical interventions. ‘What we're advocating is that when your doctor prescribes it, because it is medically necessary, that it should be paid for equitably, not for some and not others,' said Mr. Attaran, professor of law and medicine at the University of Ottawa.
The report also recommended that IVF clinics should be accredited and as part of this be obliged to reduce the multiple birth rate to 15 per cent in five years time and ten per cent within ten years. The multiple birth rate following IVF was 27.5 per cent in 2006. Multiple births pose a risk of health to the mother and baby and the authors of the report said that the high cost of IVF was putting pressure on patients to opt for multiple embryo transfer in the belief this would increase the chances of pregnancy.
In addition, the report estimated that the province could save between $400 to $500 million over the course of the next ten years by reducing the frequency of multiple births. ‘Over a period of years, the savings from those multiple birth incidents would more than cover the cost of public funding of three cycles of IVF,' said the chairman of the panel and president of the University of Waterloo, David Johnston.
A similar postcode lottery in access to IVF treatment exists in the UK, where a report published last month showed that 8 out 10 Primary Care Trusts are failing to provide couples with the full three cycles of IVF treatment recommended by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE).
A year ago the British Fertility Society (BFS) and the Association of Clinical Embryologists (ACE) introduced new guidelines advising all UK clinics to adopt a single embryo transfer (SET) policy for all women under 37. The move is aimed at reducing the number of risky multiple births amongst IVF patients in the UK.