Public policy research demonstrates that improved access to Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) has a positive impact on society
LYON, France, 2 July 2007 - Medical, political and demographical experts drawn from across the globe have come together this week to discuss the ongoing challenges associated with access to infertility. Leaders in their respective fields are calling for infertility to be recognised as a serious, growing European human, health and economic issue where barriers to treatment need to be lifted.
The consequences of an ageing and declining population and the socio-economic issues that come with them warrant serious consideration. One strategy for addressing these concerns is increasing access to assisted reproductive technology (ART) to help infertile couples achieve their desired family size. European economic analysis of ART policy has shown this strategy to be cost-effective when compared with existing pronatalist policies1 .
Infertile couples and infertility advocacy groups have long campaigned for the access to ART. This view is supported by a growing number of politicians who feel that ART warrants serious political support, not only in putting the case of infertility firmly on the healthcare agenda, but also in addressing the issue of an ageing population.
Senator Mary Henry, MD, comments, "Infertility is becoming increasingly common. It can be a deeply personal issue for those affected and people are often reluctant to speak out due to the stigma that is sometimes associated with the condition." She continues, "We need to ensure that infertile couples receive the support and resources they need. We also should provide practical guidance on ART across Europe."
In taking a holistic approach to healthcare, the emotional burden and consequences of infertility must also be considered. Sandra Dill, Chair, International Consumer Support for Infertility, a charity committed to providing comprehensive support network to the many couples affected by infertility says, "Infertility can be an extremely isolating experience for those it affects. It is vitally important that the debilitating impact of infertility is recognised and people receive the support they need to access the best care and treatment available."
With the current decline in population size, it is estimated that by 2050, one-in-three Europeans will be aged over 65 years. A total fertility rate of around 2.1 children per woman is needed to maintain the current population; however, birth rates are on average closer to 1.50 children per woman2 .
Dr Jonathan Grant of RAND Europe, the independent think tank that continues to conduct research into the demographic and economic impact of ART in Europe says, "Our research has shown the potential that ART has on mitigating the consequences of falling birth rates in Europe. Although the relative impact of ART on the economic and demographic factors is small, it is comparable with other policies. The inclusion of ART in a population policy mix could provide a step in the right direction to help increase fertility rates."
Professor Paul Devroey, of the Centre for Reproductive Medicine, Free University of Brussels in Belgium says, "Research published this month supports the trend showing that European countries that have greater funding for and access to ART have more live births through this treatment option. For example, Denmark reimburses the cost of up to six ART cycles and, in 2003, 3.9% of children born were a result of ART. Whereas in the UK, guidelines recommend that up to three ART cycles be reimbursed by the NHS and only 1.5% of children born were a result of ART3 ."
Currently, authorities across Europe are challenging the affordability of A.R.T. and often ration access to services which can result in inequality of treatment access. For example, the UK's National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) recommends three fresh cycles of IVF should be provided for infertile couples while the majority of health commissioners presently fund no more than one fresh cycle per couple. Further research into the demographic and social impact of ART is needed.
Dr Dirk Schneider, Medical Director, Obstetrics/Gynaecology, Ferring, says, "Ferring is committed to offering infertile couples the all important chance of having a family and to providing innovative treatment solutions. As part of our ongoing commitment to ART, we are proud to support the State of the ART conference which has brought together stakeholders from a variety of disciplines focused on one common goal - improve patient care and access to treatment for infertility."
1. Hoorens S., Gallo F., Cave J.A.K., Grant J.C. Can assisted reproduction technologies help to offset population ageing? An assessment of the demographic and economic impact of ART in Denmark and UK: Case Report, Human Reprod Advance Access, June 23, 2007
2. Grant J., Hoorens S., Sivadasan S., van het Loo M., DaVanzo J., Hale L., Gibson S., Bitz W. Low Fertility and Population Ageing, (http://www.rand.org/pubs/monographs/2004/RAND_MG206.sum.pdf )
3. Anderson Nyboe A., Goossens V., Gianaroli L., Felberbaum R., de Mouzon J., Nygren K.G. Assisted reproductive technology in Europe, 2003. Results generated from European registers by ESHRE. Hum Reprod 2007;22 No. 6:1513-1525
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 fertility, obstetrics, urology, gastroenterology and endocrinology. Ferring's fertility portfolio of treatments gives infertile couples the chance to have babies and includes its flagship brand MENOPUR®, a recognised high quality treatment for infertility. Ferring has operating subsidiaries in over 50 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.