April 16, 2024

Doctors competing to develop ultra low cost IVF

Alan Trounson working on new system

Although IVF is now more than 30 years old
and its inventor has won a Nobel Prize. But it is still terribly expensive. The
full cost of treatment is between £3,000 and £10,000 a cycle, and often several
cycles are required. As a consequence, only 1 out of 5 potential clients in the
developed world make use of it – and 1 out of 100 in the developing world.

The head of the California Institute for
Regenerative Medicine, Australian biologist Alan Trounson, and others are
backing a new approach which could slash the cost of treatment to at least
one-fifth of what it is now.

According to the UK Independent, “an
alternative, low-impact form of IVF based on generic drugs and simple equipment
might have a lower success rate, but could cost as little as £176 a cycle,
excluding staff costs, and could be repeated because it is less toxic. But
efforts to test it have run into difficulties. Existing IVF clinics in the West
have been reluctant to co-operate – apparently because they fear it may
undermine their business.”

What makes this scheme so attractive –
apart from its price tag — is that it has less impact upon the mother.
Conventional IVF relies upon powerful drugs which weaken a woman so much that it
takes months for her to recover. It has a 50% drop-out rate. Currently Dr
Trounson’s outfit, Low Cost IVF Foundation, based in Switzerland, is testing
the system in Africa, as well as in Melbourne, Stockholm and Bologna.

Another group, the International Society
for Mild Approaches in Assisted Reproduction, headed by a London specialist,
Geeta Nargund, is testing its approach on Francophone Africa. “Reducing cost
has to be a key objective. There is no equality of access for people to IVF.
That equality has to be achieved, or only the rich will be able to
reproduce,” she told the Independent. ~ Independent, Oct 14

Michael Cook