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RCOG says patients pay for unsound tests

Dr Kirsty Horsey

Progress Educational Trust

16 September 2003

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[BioNews, London] The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) yesterday claimed that infertile couples are being misled by some clinics and paying too much for unnecessary tests and treatments. They also stated that many of the treatments offered to fertility patients are 'useless', in that they may be 'scientifically unsound' or untested.

The RCOG's report, from a review team led by Professor Lesley Regan, said that many tests - particularly screening tests for immune system abnormalities - may not actually work. It advises doctors to rely on proven methods only.

According to the report, many patients come to fertility clinics 'armed' with information gathered from the Internet. The report recognises that there are many potential causes of infertility and recurrent miscarriages. Recurrent miscarriage is known to be caused by, among other things, genetic defects, hormonal imbalance, infections or physical deformities in the uterus. But many causes of infertility and recurrent miscarriage remain 'unexplained', although some doctors believe that errors in the immune system may be to blame. On this basis, a number of tests have been developed, and many are promoted on the Internet.

The RCOG report says that most of these tests are unproven, with the exception of one (antiphospholipid syndrome and its relation to miscarriage). It also says that there is no good scientific evidence that connects immunological faults with infertility. Because of this, it concludes, many patients are routinely paying unnecessarily up to ?1000 for tests in the hope of improving their chances of success. The British Fertility Society welcomed the report. Its chair, Professor Alison Murdoch, said the report may help patients decide what they should and should not pay for. 'Infertile couples are often desperate to try any possible therapy and it is essential that we only recommend treatments of proven value', she said.

© Copyright Progress Educational Trust

Reproduced with permission from BioNews, an email and online sources of news, information and comment on assisted reproduction and genetics.

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Date Added: 16 September 2003   Date Updated: 12 September 2004
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