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Assisted Reproductive Technology helps address demographic challenge in Europe

MEP calls for improved access to ART (Assisted Reproductive Technology) to help increase fertility rates

Prague, Czech Republic, 19 June 2006 - New research conducted by the independent 'think tank' RAND Europe discusses one potential solution to the population ageing crisis in Europe that has not yet been considered.   The study has examined the growing importance of infertility and how enabling infertile couples who wish to have children using assisted reproduction technologies could help to mitigate the consequences of falling birth rates in Europe.  The research was presented for the first time at the ESHRE (European Society for Human Reproduction and Embryology) Congress in June.   The study was supported by an unrestricted research grant from the Switzerland based Ferring biopharmaceuticals. 

Europe is currently facing an unprecedented ageing population, birth rates are falling and family sizes are shrinking. The total fertility rate is now less than two children per woman in every nation of the European Union. As a result, by 2040, one in four Europeans will be more than 65 years old, up from one in eight in 1990.

Dr Jonathan Grant, Director, RAND Europe, the independent research organisation that led the research, comments, "The results of our research demonstrate key points; ART technology has the potential to contribute to a population policy mix, while the impact of ART may appear to be small, it is similar to other policies that encourage fertility."

Research Observations between Denmark and the United Kingdom
The new research, entitled "Should ART be part of a population policy mix?"  compared two European countries with different reimbursement policies and funding models for ART.

The research has evaluated the effect of changes to the reimbursement environment for ART which would allow more cycles to be conducted and its potential contribution to total fertility rates. The research indicates that if the number of ART cycles in the UK were increased to levels similar to those in Denmark and the likely resulting live births, the total fertility rate would increase from 1.64 to 1.68.  Demographers often cite that 2.1 children per woman is required in order to sustain existing population levels. Taking into consideration the current total fertility rate (TFR) contribution of ART in the UK of 0.02, this would suggest that the total contribution of ART to TFR could be 0.06. It is worth referencing that in Denmark, where there is generous public financing for ART, the contribution of ART is currently 0.07 to the TFR. 

The research highlights that ART has the potential ability to stimulate total fertility by 0.06 and 0.07 in the UK and Denmark, respectively and is comparable to existing population policies often used by governments to influence child birth such as financial transfers, tax-credits and child care allowances. Subsequently the research illustrates that policies to influence the uptake of ART can be considered part of a population policy mix that can be adopted by governments to increase total fertility levels. 

The Demographic Challenge
Concerns over population decline have caused politicians and policy makers to take note and begin serious consideration of policy implications and responses.

Dr. Irena Belohorska, Member of the European Parliament comments at a satellite symposium at ESHRE, "The current trend towards an ageing population is of importance to both the European Parliament and the European Commission because of its potential economic consequences and likelihood of impacting social cohesion between future generations. In the recent Green Paper by the Commission it was recognised that Europeans would like to have more children than they currently do; but they are discouraged from doing so for various economic and social reasons. ,

"Although the Commission recognises that the most important reason for the decline in births rate is due to economic and social determinants, the contribution of ART towards total fertility rates was not discussed in the Green Paper." 
Concerned by the omission of medical infertility from the Green Paper, which affects approximately 1 in 7 couples, and the available treatment options for couples, MEP Belohorská, who is also a doctor of gynaecology, recently tabled an oral question during the European Parliament asking why the Commission had not considered the possibilities with IVF for those couples with medical need. (http://www.europarl.europa.eu/QP-WEB/home.jsp?language=en ).  
Dr. Irena Belohorska continues, "With recent technological advancements and improved access to services in some member state countries, the number of children born from ART can often represent an increasing proportion of all live births each year. 5  Acknowledging that there is no single solution to low fertility, governments, politicians and policy developers need to recognise the contribution that ART is currently making and can make to future populations."  
Medical Need
Results from the RAND study are seen as a milestone by many working in the area because the study bridges a gap between the disciplines of population demography and reproductive medicine and demonstrates how children born from this technology can impact future population dynamics.  The results from this study are timely as governments are currently searching for available options to try and increase national fertility rates.  The RAND study emphasises the importance of medical reimbursement which can often act as a barrier to couples requiring reproductive health services.  According to Professor William Ledger presenting at an ESHRE satellite symposium: "The significance of these barriers will likely increase as the number of couples who require ART in order to conceive grows, due to factors such as the advancing age at which women try for first pregnancy, and the increasing prevalence of Chlamydia related tubal disease."

About Ferring Pharmaceuticals
Ferring Pharmaceuticals is a research-driven,  specialty biopharmaceutical group active in global markets. The company identifies, develops and markets innovative products in the areas of endocrinology, gastroenterology, gynaecology and obstetrics, infertility and urology. Ferring's infertility treatment gives infertile couples the chance to have babies and includes MENOPUR®, a well-tolerated6, and recognised high quality treatment for infertile couples around the world. Recent research has shown that treatment with MENOPUR® results in significant higher live birth rates compared with recombinant IVF treatment. 7

In recent years Ferring has expanded beyond its traditional European base and now has operating subsidiaries in over 40 countries. To learn more about Ferring or our products please visit www.ferring.com.

About RAND Europe
RAND Europe is a non-profit organisation that helps improve policy and decision-making through research and objective analysis. 

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