Low-cost IVF expands global access to infertility care
The recent development of low-cost in vitro fertilization (IVF) programs may expand access to infertility treatment not only in resource-poor countries, but also in the developed world.
One innovative program, developed at the University of Colorado Boulder (UC-Boulder), US, reduces the cost of IVF to just around USD 250 per cycle.
“The researchers made this possible by simplifying the entire procedure of IVF, using generic fertility drugs and basic laboratory equipment that can fit inside a shoebox,” explained Professor Gab Kovacs of Monash IVF and Monash University, Melbourne, Australia. Kovacs was speaking during the 19th World Congress on Controversies in Obstetrics, Gynecology & Infertility (COGI) held recently in Macau.
Using two test tubes and inexpensive chemicals, the UC-Boulder researchers developed a low-cost embryo culture method that can generate conditions very similar to what others are generating with a USD 60,000 incubator.
“In the first test tube, citric acid and sodium bicarbonate are used to prepare a solution containing carbon dioxide, which creates the ideal conditions for fertilization,” he explained. “This is then piped into the second test tube, where oocytes and sperms are injected by syringe without disturbing the air environment inside the tube. Any resulting embryo is examined under a microscope before transfer.”
Importantly, the ongoing pregnancy rate was 30.4 percent – similar to rates achieved in conventional IVF programs. According to the researchers, this means infertility care may now be universally accessible.
In June 2013, Australia’s largest infertility treatment provider launched low-cost IVF clinics in low-income suburbs of Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, providing IVF treatment with minimal stimulation and monitoring. This was followed by another treatment provider, who launched a low-intervention IVF service with electronic interface with patients.
“While the success rates may be lower with these models, they offer affordable IVF services to patients who would otherwise have struggled to access the full service,” said Kovacs.