Health

UK fertility clinics offering unverified add-on services

A research paper finds that only 13 of 74 clinics substantiated the claims on their websites

 
By Nikita Lamba
Last Updated: Tuesday 29 November 2016

Several surveys suggest that success rates of reproductive treatments are overestimated (Credit: iStock)

A report recently published in the British Medical Journal has found fertility clinics in the UK selling add-on services to enhance fertility—with little to prove their effectiveness. The research conducted by Center for Evidence Based Medicine (CEBM) at Oxford, found lack of substantial evidence to state that these interventions and add-on services do anything to increase fertility or chances of conceiving.

The study found 276 beneficial claims across 74 websites for additional intervention treatments. Only 13 of these websites substantiated their claims. Some of these services involve tests such as ovarian reserve test, antral follicle count, thyroid antibodies, semen analysis and chromosome test.

The UK National Institute for Health and Care Excellence has given guidelines for all these tests except immunology testing. The recommendation to NICE has also not been made on the websites. The researchers, led by Carl Heneghan of Oxford CEBM say, “There is a need for more information on interventions to be made available by fertility centres, to support well informed treatment decisions.”

Besides failing to justify the need for these interventions and tests, the costs are said to vary from anywhere between US $124 (£100) and $4,400 (£3,500) apart from the in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) costs.

According to the paper, not all clinics maintained transparency while marketing pre-implantation genetic screening—a method of checking the chromosomes of embryos conceived artificially for common abnormalities. A BBC report claims that an earlier version of this test could actually reduce the chances of having a baby. Even though many clinics have improved upon the test, the there is lack of reports from robust trials that warrantee decrease in the complications involved.

Several other surveys suggest that success rates of reproductive treatments are overestimated. The paper points out the need for high quality information online as couples opting for IVF prefer to make decisions independently. It also adds that proper research and evidence is required on the matter.

A spokesman from Human Fertility and Embryology Authority (HFEA), UK’s fertility clinic regulator was quoted as saying, “HFEA plans to launch a new website next year with more information about a wider range of add-ons.” Through all these reports, it can be noticed that the patients undergoing fertility treatment, in their desperation for having a baby, would try anything that remotely suggested a higher rate of success in implantation, the spokesperson added.

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