Low-cost, high quality IVF for 200 euro per cycle
Universal access to infertility care: from dream to reality
Genk, 8 July 2013:
Infertility care is probably the most neglected healthcare problem of developing countries, affecting more than 200 million couples according to the WHO. The consequences of involuntary childlessness are much more dramatic in developing countries and can create more wide ranging societal problems compared to Western societies, especially for women. Because many families in developing countries entirely depend on children for economic survival, childlessness has to be regarded as a social and public health issue and not only as an particular medical problem.
Despite a record of 5 million IVF babies born in the world, the treatment of infertility by effective methods largely remains the preserve of developed countries and is only available or affordable for less than 10 % of the world population. The success and sustainability of assisted reproductive technologies in resource-poor settings will depend to a large extent on the ability to optimise these techniques in terms of availability, affordability and effectiveness.
We describe the first results of a prospective study performed in the ZOL Hospitals of Genk, Belgium. We studied the cost of a low cost IVF system based on an embryo culture method which removes the need for an expensive IVF laboratory with CO2 incubators, medical gas supply and air purification systems. By using this simplified method, successful outcomes can be obtained at levels that compare favourably to those in high resource settings. Up to now, 12 healthy babies have been born after using this new method of IVF culturing. The estimated cost of this simplified system is between 10% and 15% of current costs in Western-style IVF programs. If combined with low ovarian stimulation protocols, the estimated cost of a treatment cycle is less than 200 euro.
This study is part of the Walking Egg Project ( www.thewalkingegg.com ), a international project aiming to raise awareness surrounding childlessness in resource-poor countries and to make infertility care in all its aspects, including assisted reproductive technologies, available and accessible for a much larger proportion of the population. By simplifying the diagnostic and IVF laboratory procedures and by modifying the ovarian stimulation protocols for IVF, assisted reproductive techniques can be offered at affordable prices. The implementation of low-cost infertility centres in resource poor countries, if possible integrated in existing Reproductive Health Care Centres, will be the next step to achieve the ultimate goal of “universal access to infertility care”.
The simplified lab practice will surely open up a new era in the history of IVF and will make effective treatment techniques available to a much larger part of the world's infertile population and, therefore, may also be considered an significant breakthrough in terms of human rights, equity and social justice.