Women 'bombarded' with fertility drugs

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Infertile women seeking test-tube baby treatment are being bombarded with drugs to stimulate ovulation, increasing the cost and deterring patients, a leading fertility expert said yesterday.

Professor Robert Edwards, who started the fertility revolution 20 years ago with the birth of Louise Brown, the world's first test-tube baby, said women were being dosed with too many hormones in each treatment cycle.

"We are seeing ever more drastic ovarian stimulation when we should be striving for simpler forms of treatment. Currently technologies are too expensive, which means in vitro fertilisation is not available to sufficient couples. It should be made available at much cheaper prices."

Professor Edwards, of the University of Cambridge, said women were routinely given 10 to 20 injections of different drugs to stimulate ovulation and up to 50 eggs were being retrieved. "What do we do with 50 eggs? I want four or five excellent eggs and embryos. This has got to go."

"We are doing things I think we should not be doing. In Oldham we used very low levels of hormones to stimulate patients. Since IVF spread worldwide it's turned into a pharmaceutical nonsense. We can't go on treating patients like this."

Speaking to a conference in London on IVF, Professor Edwardssaid cutting costs was key to making the treatment more widely available. Over the last 20 years, 300,000 IVF babies have been born worldwide, but there were thousands more couples who could benefit but were denied treatment because of the cost.