The Same IVF Drugs-Just much Cheaper.

I’ve been working with clients for over fifteen years to help optimise their chances of a successful pregnancy with IVF.

At the moment here in South Cumbria we are benefiting from one of the best NHS funded IVF schedules in the country. It seems strange to think that something as fundamental as IVF treatment could have such varying NHS support from one region to another, but it really does.

I was at an IVF conference recently with practitioners from throughout the UK and the variation in NHS funding for IVF was astonishing; almost non existent in some Southern Counties to our comparatively generous allocation of three funded cycles, with frozen cycles counting as the same cycle as the one that generated the eggs.

Going through IVF almost always feels a considerable journey to undertake, but things can seem much more severe for women falling outside of NHS funding. This includes women whose current partners already have a child, women over the age of 40, women who have already had one successful pregnancy themselves, and women who have used up their three NHS funded goes, in addition to any attempted transfers with frozen embryos from those three cycles.

It always seems particularly painful to me to see a couple weighing up the combined stresses of undergoing a private IVF cycle. Or another private IVF cycle. Or another. When do you stop if each try is unsuccessful?  But -and this is the real killer-it still looks like there may be a slim chance of the next cycle working? The emotional, physical and economic stress on a couple is enormous.

The cost of a privately funded IVF cycle varies hugely. It depends on which clinic is doing it, which protocol will be used, how many optional extras a couple is willing and/or able to fund and how the cycle progresses. The main expense comes in at the surgical steps involved, particularly egg collection, and the drugs used, especially the drugs used to stimulate the ovaries. Those two steps can be avoided with a frozen cycle which is why frozen cycles are so much cheaper.

Recently I’ve been hearing a lot about the variability in the cost of IVF drugs. I thought that this might be a matter of one hundred pounds or so between one pharmaceutical supplier and another, with the ability to shop around keeping costs quite similar.

And then I had a client recently who bought her medication from the pharmacy at her local ASDA and it was £600 cheaper. I’m not a great fan of big supermarkets and this definitely isn’t a plug for ASDA but I thought it was a big enough amount to try to bring to more people’s attention. Apparently ASDA are currently supplying IVF drugs on a not-for-profit basis.

I spent a couple of hours comparing drug costs of an average IVF protocol. I looked at the cost a couple of private clinics charge, two online pharmacies, a high street pharmacy Sainsburys and ASDA. ASDA came out substantially cheaper for almost all the drugs.

If I were going to advise where to spend that saved £600, I would suggest putting it towards the use of an embryoscope. CARE clinics call this  CAREmaps. This procedure uses an embryoscope to reduce the stress involved in repeatedly moving a developing embryo from one place to another to view its progress. It costs about £720 and increases the chances of a successful pregnancy by between 15% and 40% depending which piece of research you read.  I wouldn’t advise an endometrial scratch as this procedure can be uncomfortable and doesn’t seem to be showing much, if any, benefit.

Or you could have a holiday to get yourselves happy and relaxed!
For some couples with unexplained infertility that could just cut out the need for the next round of IVF completely!

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