The chairwoman of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority(HFEA), has called on fertility clinics and companies to be open and transparent when it comes to so-called ‘fertility add-ons’
Sally Cheshire said the watchdog is determined to create a culture of change for patients.
She said: “Couples who are struggling to conceive are often desperate and will try anything they think can help them have their much longed-for baby, making them vulnerable to myths and unproven treatments.
“From acupuncture to bee pollen, there are many supplements and treatments that claim to work but are simply not supported by evidence. Just this month a company offering an IV drip claiming to boost fertility has come under fire for offering false hope.”
The drips were available at Westfield shopping centre and priced at £250 and in response, the company behind the drip, Get A Drip, decided to withdraw them from sale.
“Fertility treatment can be confusing and overwhelming”
Sally said: “We know that many patients going through fertility treatment are confused and overwhelmed by much of the information they read, especially on treatment add-ons. They want to know whether the treatments are safe and effective, and if the additional costs are worth it. That is why we’ve been working with professional groups such as the British Fertility Society and others, to provide guidance to fertility clinics on how unproven treatments should be ethically introduced, which is a vital step towards a more transparent approach in fertility services.”
Sally said the problem was a growing one. In its recent patient survey, it showed 74 per cent of patients had at least one type of treatment add-on.
She said: “It’s crucial that clinics are transparent about the add-on treatments they offer, including the potential costs, so that patients know whether they are likely to increase their chance of having a baby.”
“Patients need to be given more information and evidence of treatment effectiveness”
It also operations a traffic light rating system on the most commonly offered add-ons to help patients get a better understanding of the effectiveness of treatments they might consider.
She said: “We’ll continue to work with colleagues, experts and patients to create change that ensures patients have the right information at the right time to help them make informed decisions on their treatment.
“Trying to conceive can be hard and it’s easy to see why even the slightest promise of upping your chances can lead people to try out new treatments. But the last thing patients need are bogus claims on improving fertility or successful pregnancy, that will only lead to disappointment and financial strain.
It’s important that treatments are done by a medical professional in a regulated fertility clinic. There is no place for quick fix fertility issues on our high streets.”