The UK's National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) has published the second draft of its proposed guidelines for infertility treatment provided by the NHS. It recommends that infertile couples meeting certain criteria should be offered up to three IVF attempts using fresh embryos, with the possibility of further treatment cycles using frozen embryos. The proposals could signal an end to the 'postcode lottery' provision of IVF, which at present varies greatly throughout the UK.
The guidance states that couples should be offered state-funded infertility treatment if the woman is between 23-39 years old, and if there is either a diagnosed cause of infertility, or at least three years of unexplained infertility. It also recommends that women under 23 may be offered treatment if the couple have an unequivocal need for IVF treatment, such as prior treatment for cancer, very poor semen quality or Fallopian tubal blockage. NICE also recommends that no more than two embryos per cycle of IVF treatment are transferred to the woman's womb, to reduce the risk of multiple pregnancy.
The infertility patient support group CHILD has welcomed the production of the guidelines: 'The emotional impact of infertility on a couple's life is devastating, and finding themselves unable to access the treatment they need on the NHS causes further distress at an already very painful time in their lives' said spokeswoman Sheena Young. Fertility clinic director Simon Fishel also welcomed the proposals, saying that the UK has been 'the poor relation' in IVF provision compared to other western countries. But he also cautioned that it could take several years before the recommendations are implemented. The guidelines are now available on NICE's website (see link below), and people are invited to send their views until 22 September 2003, Anne-Toni Rodgers of NICE told the BBC. The final draft is due to be published in February 2004.
Sources and References
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