IVF as cheap as £170, doctors claim

IVF The science behind IVF is getting cheaper

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The cost of IVF can be cut dramatically from thousands of pounds to around £170 to start a "new era" in IVF, fertility doctors from Belgium claim.

Twelve children have been born through the technique, which replaces expensive medical equipment with "kitchen cupboard" ingredients.

Data, presented at fertility conference in London, suggests the success rate is similar to conventional IVF.

Experts said there was big potential to open up IVF to the developing world.

Cut price

Fertility treatment is expensive. In the UK, it costs around £5,000 per cycle.

Start Quote

The potential implications for this could be quite amazing.”

End Quote Stuart Lavery Director of IVF, Hammersmith Hospital, London

High levels of the gas carbon dioxide are needed when growing embryos in an IVF clinic in order to control the acidity levels. This is maintained using carbon dioxide incubators, medical grade gas and air purification.

Instead, the team at the Genk Institute for Fertility Technology mixed inexpensive citric acid and bicarbonate of soda to produce carbon dioxide.

Lead researcher Prof Willem Ombelet said: "We succeeded with an almost Alka-Selzer like technique. Our first results suggest it is at least as good as normal IVF and we now have 12 healthy babies born."

The results, presented to the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology conference, showed a pregnancy rate of 30% - approximately the same as IVF.

The researchers believe the cost of IVF can be cut to just 10-15% of services in Western countries.

'Not for everyone'

The technique cannot completely replace conventional IVF.

It would not help men with severe infertility who require more advanced treatment in which the sperm is injected into the egg, known intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection.

However, Prof Ombelet told the BBC the aim was to bring fertility treatment to the rest of the world.

"If you don't have a child in Africa, or also South America or Asia, it's a disaster. It's a disaster from an economic point of view, a psychological point of view. They throw you out of the family. You need to help them and nobody helps them."

Even in rich, Western, countries many couples are still unable to afford IVF and the studies are attracting interest.

"We've got demand from the US already."

Geeta Nargund, at St George's Hospital, London, is planning to introduce the techniques to the UK: "We have an obligation to bring down the cost of IVF, otherwise we'll have a situation where only the affluent can afford it."

Stuart Lavery, the director of IVF at Hammersmith Hospital in London, said the study had the potential to have a big impact globally.

"This isn't just about low cost IVF in west London, this is all about can you bring IVF to countries which have unsophisticated medical services where infertility has an incredibly low profile.

"They've show that using a very cheap, very simple technique that you can culture embryos and you can do IVF.

"The weakness of the study is they've done it in a big lab in Belgium, so they need go out and do the same study in Africa now. But if this is real potentially you're talking about bringing IVF to corners of the world where there is no IVF. This is enormous, the potential implications for this could be quite amazing."

The researchers anticipate starting out in Ghana, Uganda or Cape Town.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 321.

    I can only assume that the majority of negative comments from some on this HYS means that they have already either sown their seed or had children, usual selfish I am alright jack comments. Every woman has a right to bear a child if they wish, and if some need help achieving that aim then they should be given it and the cheaper the better.

  • rate this

    Comment number 320.

    For heaven's sake, we want less kids in the World not more!

  • rate this

    Comment number 319.

    Goes to show how much people have been ripped off for so many years, making massive amounts of money from peoples heartbreak

  • rate this

    Comment number 318.

    I am happy to see such developments in the world of reproductive medicine and look forward to learning of more. My wife and I have been lucky enough to self-fund our IVF, allowing others to use the NHS resources in our place. I feel that people in the UK, incl. single parents and the unemployed, should pay for healthcare. This system used in Holland works very well and should be used in the UK.

  • rate this

    Comment number 317.

    I'm sure I can smell the catholic church.....

  • rate this

    Comment number 316.

    Great. Now feed the world.

  • rate this

    Comment number 315.

    Furthermore, if infertility is Darwinism then why don't we all quit now, I'll stop working and if you die of cancer, heart failure, diabetes, the list is endless in the absence of treatment, well that's survival of the fittest..cheap IVF won't be offered to the single mum of 10 for that reason-she has 10 kids and clearly is fertile! Anyhow it's about time we ALL paid for our healthcare in the UK.

  • rate this

    Comment number 314.

    For all of you who think we should pay for IVF-perhaps I'll request my hard earned taxes back when you need your lung transplant or liver transplant due to drinking or smoking for they are not diseases but vices so why are you entitled to treatment over me? A kidney can't be used to replace a damaged liver, likewise adoption is not just a cure for infertility-that is very narrow minded.

  • rate this

    Comment number 313.

    The resources wasted on ever-increasing numbers of procedures to allow infertile people to conceive is ludicrous in an over-populated world. It happens because of the fetishisation of motherhood and childbirth - look at the tabloid coverage of K Middleton once she was pregnant.

  • rate this

    Comment number 312.

    As if we needed more kids in an overpopulated planet!
    Those who can not conceive, can't they simply adopt a child and help to alleviate poverty? Are they so in need to breed to prove something? To prove that they are capable of reproducing???
    It's time for more conscience, and this is the kind of science that does not help the world a bit!
    We need to stop breeding, not cheap IVF!

  • rate this

    Comment number 311.

    How about £170 adoption?

  • rate this

    Comment number 310.

    Population over 7 billion and climbing fast, the world is struggling to feed the naturally born. This research is no help to mankind and only adds to the growing problem of overpopulation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 309.

    Muzzy, I love your views on Darwinism. It's like whats the point of medicine, it goes against survival of the fittest. Well Muzzy, the fittest use their brains to become even fitter. You are a dying breed/

  • rate this

    Comment number 308.

    Just as with breast implants, coming soon, yet another waste of NHS resources in an effort to make you feel better about yourself.

    After enough left wing squeals, within a short time this will be made available for all ages from 10 to 100.

    To not would be discrimination.....

  • rate this

    Comment number 307.

    As usual there are plenty of people telling infertile couples to adopt, or the developing world they have enough children. Why don't they adopt, even if they're fertile? Or does being fertile mean it's ok to overpopulate the world? Or why don't they shun medicine entirely, given they're so against creating and prolonging human life, and against everyone receiving the best medicine can offer?

  • Comment number 306.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 305.

    Wouldn't it be nice if our society spent as much money convincing people that they don't need children to be fulfilled in life and that women are whole and complete human beings without procreating as we do on IVF technologies and policies? But, I suppose it's better to continue overpopulating a planet we already can't feed properly - what a great place to bring even more children!

  • Comment number 304.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 303.

    As much as I feel sorrow for those couples who cannot naturally conceive a child, I dont understand why IVF should be offered at all on the NHS.

  • rate this

    Comment number 302.

    Sooo, with the knowledge that the world does not have enough resources for those that exist on the planet already, here's a great idea to really help screw the planet up. nice one. SCIENTISTS SHOULD BE THINKING OF WAYS TO CUT THE NUMBERS OF BEINGS ON THIS PLANET, NOT INCREASE THE ALREADY PHENOMENAL RATE. IF YOU CANT HAVE KIDS, DON'T BE SELFISH AND ADOPT 1 OF THE MANY THAT ARE SITTING WAITNG !!!!!


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