Fertility watchdog ‘increasingly concerned’ about dubious treatments sold by private clinics as experts warn …

Posted by Big Rat on Campus on May 15, 2016 in Rat News | Subscribe

The UK’s fertility watchdog is becoming “increasingly concerned” that private clinics are offering ‘add-on’ treatments which have not been properly tested to see if they actually work, it can be revealed.

In a series of interviews with The Independent, leading experts variously claimed some clinics were giving out “expensive, potentially harmful stuff like Smarties”, announcing breakthroughs that were closer to marketing “hype” and that half of the people treated did not actually need any help to have a baby.

A Cambridge university immunologist also said the use of immune-suppressant drugs by clinics was based on a flawed theory that this could help prevent miscarriage and broke the medical maxim to “first do no harm”.

Other techniques questioned by several experts include pre-implantation genetic screening, intrauterine insemination for women with unexplained infertility, and the use of time-lapse photography. The cost of such treatments can run into tens of thousands of pounds.

Despite regular announcements of new techniques, progress has been relatively modest. In the 10 years to 2013, the average birth rate following IVF rose from about 20 per cent per cycle of treatment to 26.5 per cent.

After the Human Fertilisation Embryology Authority was contacted about the experts’ concerns, the HFEA’s chair Sally Cheshire said it was planning to take action to help patients decide which techniques were worthwhile.

“Although the vast majority of clinics provide excellent care for fertility patients, we are becoming increasingly concerned about IVF treatment ‘add-ons’ without a strong evidence base being offered at some clinics,” she said in a statement.

“We know from talking to patients that they can find navigating the IVF process difficult and the offer of ‘add-ons’ can increase their confusion, and the cost of their treatment. 

“Patients are often not sure whether they need the additional treatments but worry that they could regret not making every attempt they can to get pregnant.”

She said the HFEA was now working with scientists and the industry to “provide accurate and easy-to-understand information about these new treatments”.

One of Britain’s leading fertility experts, Yacoub Khalaf, director of the assisted conception unit of at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital in London, stressed that some of those working in private fertility clinics were “very decent and honest people”.

But he added: “At best, patients are subject to exploitation; at worst, patients are being subjected to harm.

“All of this needs to be subjected to rigorous checks — and a reality check among the providers and the users.”

Mr Khalaf said some fertility clinic staff were simply putting “two and two together” about treatments that appeared to show signs of success without waiting for genuine scientific proof.

He said there might be a small number of patients who would benefit from such treatments, but this was “not a recipe to just dish out expensive, potentially harmful stuff like Smarties”.

“Some patients, through their use of expensive, unproven medication, could be deprived of the financial resilience to try again,” he added.

IVF treatment was developed in the 1960s by Sir Robert Edwards in work that later won him the Nobel Prize and one of his first graduate students was Martin Johnson.

Now emeritus professor of reproductive sciences at Cambridge University and joint senior editor of the journal Reproductive BioMedicine and Society, he pointed to “a lack of scientific rigour” behind some fertility clinic techniques.

“What it means is the treatment could be making their situation worse and certainly not improving it — and is costing them money. It’s all about anecdotal evidence or no objective evidence,” Professor Johnson said.

He said he felt the people doing it generally acted in “good faith”. “People can believe something that isn’t necessarily true. I would not describe it as a scandal. It’s over-enthusiastic clinics hyping some of their treatments more than they should do so,” he said.

But when asked if he had an “understanding” attitude towards their actions, Professor Johnson disagreed, saying: “I’m trying to think of explanations for why people, who are otherwise ethical, might do this.”

  • 1/22

    New online test predicts skin cancer risk

    Health experts have created a new online tool which can predict a person’s risk of developing a common form of skin cancer. The tool uses the results of a 10-question-quiz to estimate the chance of a person aged 40 or over of having non-melanoma skin cancers within three years. Factors including the age, gender, smoking status, skin colour, tanning ability, freckling tendency, and other aspects of medical history are covered by the quiz

  • 2/22

    Multiple Sclerosis stem cell treatment ‘helps patients walk again’

    A new treatment for multiple sclerosis (MS) has enabled some patients to walk again by “rebooting” their immune systems. As part of a clinical trial at Sheffield’s Royal Hallamshire Hospital involving around 20 patients, scientists used stem cells to carry out a bone marrow transplant. The method known as an autologous haematopoietic stem cell transplant (HSCT) works by using chemotherapy to destroy the area of the immune system which causes MS

  • 3/22

    Dementia patients left without painkillers and handcuffed to bed

    Dementia patients experience a ‘shocking’ variation in the quality of hospital care they receive across England, a charity has warned. Staff using excessive force and not giving dementia patients the correct pain medication were among the findings outlined in a new report by The Alzheimer’s Society, to coincide with the launch of Fix Dementia Care campaign

  • 4/22

    Cancer risk ‘increased’ by drinking more than one glass of wine or pint of beer per day

    Drinking more than one glass of wine or pint of beer a day increases the risk of developing cancer, according to medical experts. New guidelines for alcohol consumption by the UK published by chief medical officers warn that drinking any level of alcohol has been linked to a range of different cancers. The evidence from the Committee on Carcinogenicity (COC) overturns the oft-held view that a glass of red wine can have significant medical benefits for both men and women

  • 5/22

    Vaping ‘no better’ than smoking regular cigarettes

    Vaping could be “no better” than smoking regular cigarettes and may be linked to cancer, scientists have found. The study which showed that vapour from e-cigarettes can damage or kill human cells was publsihed as the devices are to be rolled out by UK public health officials as an aid to quit smoking from 2016. An estimated 2.6 million people in the UK currently use e-cigarettes

  • 6/22

    Rat-bite fever

    A teenager was hospitalised and left unable to move after she developed the rare rat-bite fever disease from her pet rodents which lived in her bedroom. The teenager, who has not been named, was taken to hospital after she complained of a pain in her right hip and lower back which later made her immobile, according to the online medical journal BMJ Case Reports. She suffered for two weeks with an intermittent fever, nausea and vomiting and had a pink rash on her hands and feet. The teenager, who had numerous pets including a dog, cat, horse and three pet rats, has since made a full recovery after undergoing a course of antibiotics. Blood tests showed that she was infected with for streptobacillus moniliformis – the most common cause of rat-bite fever. One of her three pet rats lay dead in her room for three weeks before her symptoms showed

  • 7/22

    Taking antidepressants in pregnancy ‘could double the risk of autism in toddlers’

    Taking antidepressants during pregnancy could almost double the risk of a child being diagnosed with autism in the first years of life, a major study of nearly 150,000 pregnancies has suggested. Researchers have found a link between women in the later stages of pregnancy who were prescribed one of the most common types of antidepressant drugs, and autism diagnosed in children under seven years of age

  • 8/22

    Warning over Calpol

    Parents have been warned that giving children paracetamol-based medicines such as Calpol and Disprol too often could lead to serious health issues later in life. Leading paediatrician and professor of general paediatrics at University College London, Alastair Sutcliffe, said parents were overusing paracetamol to treat mild fevers. As a result, the risk of developing asthma, as well as kidney, heart and liver damage is heightened

  • 9/22

    Fat loss from pancreas ‘can reverse’ effects of type-2 diabetes

    Less than half a teaspoon of fat is all that it takes to turn someone into a type-2 diabetic according to a study that could overturn conventional wisdom on a disease affecting nearly 3 million people in Britain. Researchers have found it is not so much the overall body fat that is important in determining the onset of type-2 diabetes but the small amount of fat deposited in the pancreas, the endocrine organ responsible for insulin production

  • 10/22

    Potatoes reduce risk of stomach cancer

    Scientists have found people who eat large amounts of white vegetables were a third less likely to contract stomach cancer. The study, undertaken by Chinese scientists at Zhejiang University, found eating cauliflower, potatoes and onions reduces the chance of contracting stomach cancer but that beer, spirits, salt and preserved foods increased a person’s risk of the cancer

  • 11/22

    Connections between brain cells destroyed in early stages of Alzheimer’s disease

    Scientists have pinpointed how connections in the brain are destroyed in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, in a study which it is hoped will help in the development of treatments for the debilitating condition. At the early stages of the development of Alzheimer’s disease the synapses – which connect the neurons in the brain – are destroyed, according to researchers at the University of New South Wales, Australia. The synapses are vital for brain function, particularly learning and forming memories

  • 12/22

    Sugar tax

    The Government should introduce a sugar tax to prevent an “obesity crisis” from crippling the NHS, a senior Conservative MP and former health minister has said. Dr Dan Poulter believes that the case for increased taxes on unhealthy sugary products was “increasingly compelling”


  • 13/22

    Cancer breakthrough offers new hope for survivors rendered infertile by chemotherapy

    A potentially “phenomenal” scientific breakthrough has offered fresh hope to cancer patients rendered infertile by chemotherapy. For the first time, researchers managed to restore ovaries in mice affected by chemotherapy so that they were able to have offspring. The scientists now plan to begin clinical trials to see if the technique, which involves the use of stem cells, will also work in humans by using umbilical cord material and possibly stem cells taken from human embryos, if regulators agree

  • 14/22

    Take this NHS test to find out if you have a cancerous mole

    An interactive test could help flag up whether you should seek advice from a health professional for one of the most common types of cancer. The test is available on the NHS Choices website and reveals whether you are at risk from the disease and recommends if you should seek help. The mole self-assessment factors in elements such as complexion, the number of times you have been severely sunburnt and whether skin cancer runs in your family. It also quizzes you on the number of moles you have and whether there have been any changes in appearance regarding size, shape and colour

  • 15/22

    Health apps approved by NHS ‘may put users at risk of identity theft’

    Experts have warned that some apps do not adequately protect personal information

  • 16/22

    A watchdog has said that care visits must last longer

    The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) said home help visits of less than 30 minutes were not acceptable unless part of a wider package of support

  • 17/22

    Pendle in Lancashire tops list of five most anxious places to live in the UK

    Pendle in Lancashire has been named the most anxious place to live in the UK, while people living in Fermanagh and Omagh in Northern Ireland have been found to be the happiest

  • 18/22

    Ketamine could be used as anti-depressant

    Researchers at the University of Auckland said monitoring the effects of the drug on the brain has revealed neural pathways that could aid the development of fast-acting medications.
    Ketamine is a synthetic compound used as an off anaesthetic and analgesic drug, but is commonly used illegally as a hallucinogenic party drug.
    Dr Suresh Muthukumaraswamy, a senior researcher at the university and a member of the institution’s Centre for Brain Research, used the latest technology in brain imaging to investigate what mechanisms ketamine uses to be active in the human brain

  • 19/22

    A prosthetic hand that lets people actually feel through

    The technology lets paralysed people feel actual sensations when touching objects — including light taps on the mechanical finger — and could be a huge breakthrough for prosthetics, according to its makers. The tool was used to let a 28-year-old man who has been paralysed for more than a decade. While prosthetics have previously been able to be controlled directly from the brain, it is the first time that signals have been successfully sent the other way

  • 20/22

    The biggest cause of early death in the world is what you eat

    Unhealthy eating has been named as the most common cause of premature death around the globe, new data has revealed. A poor diet – which involves eating too few vegetables, fruits, nuts and grains and too much red meat, salt and sugar – was shown to be a bigger killer than smoking and alcohol

  • 21/22

    Scientists develop blood test that estimates how quickly people age

    Scientists believe it could be used to predict a person’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease as well as the “youthfulness” of donated organs for transplant operations. The test measures the vitality of certain genes which the researchers believe is an accurate indication of a person’s “biological age”, which may be younger or older than their actual chronological age

  • 22/22

    Aspirin could help boost therapies that fight cancer

    The latest therapies that fight cancer could work better when combined with aspirin, research has suggested. Scientists from the Francis Crick Institute in London say the anti-inflammatory pain killer suppresses a cancer molecule that allows tumours to evade the body’s immune defences.
    Laboratory tests have shown that skin, breast and bowel cancer cells often generate large amounts of this molecule, called prostaglandin E2 (PGE2).
    But Aspirin is one of a family of drugs that sends messages to the brain to block production of PGE2 and this means cancer cells can be attacked by the body’s natural defences

Dr John Parsons, founder and former director of King’s College Hospital’s assisted conception unit and a trustee of the Progress Education Trust fertility and genetics charity, has more than 30 years’ experience in the field.

Now semi-retired, he said he felt “very strongly that the industry – whatever you want to call us – has used whatever is to hand, regardless of whether it works or not, ever since I’ve been involved”.

“Every time there was a new, in inverted commas, ‘breakthrough’, it was tried on everybody and anybody,” said Dr Parsons.

“It’s got a bad smell about it. It’s all about the money. I worked in King’s College Hospital and was paid an NHS salary, but you get tainted by it. That was a pretty unpleasant feeling.

“I genuinely believe at least 50 per cent of the people who got pregnant didn’t need our help.”

Perhaps the most alarming technique is the use of drugs to suppress specialised immune cells in the mother’s uterus.

Cambridge University immunologist Professor Ashley Moffett said the idea that the foetus might be attacked by its mother’s body because half the unborn baby’s DNA comes from the father was first suggested by Nobel Prize winning biologist Sir Peter Brian Medawar, known as the “father of transplantation”.

“That’s a very attractive idea, but it’s actually not correct. But it’s become firmly embedded and it’s extremely hard to dislodge it, even among scientists,” Professor Moffett said.

“There’s certainly no evidence that it [immune-suppression] does any good and there is the potential that it can do harm because these treatments are immunosuppressive.

“Risking immunosuppression in someone who is young and fit is to me … first do no harm.”

She said one woman given immunosuppressant drugs by a private clinic became pregnant, but also seriously ill with a fungal infection. After the infection got into her bloodstream, she “lost the baby as a result quite late in the pregnancy”.

“I think these women are quite obviously, one understands, desperate, desperate and they will try anything,” Professor Moffett said, adding that their financial exploitation was “very sad”.

Professor Adam Balen, chair of the British Fertility Society, which speaks on behalf of the industry, said the most important thing was for patients to be given a genuine choice.

“Clinics have to be transparent and be open and provide appropriate information about exactly what it is they are offering and provide their own statistics as to the potential prospects of success,” he said.

“All of these treatments have been tested around the world and have been studied in clinical trials – every single one. None have been shown to do harm.”

Professor Balen, a reproductive medicine consultant at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, said exploring new techniques was also useful in driving up the success rate, which he said could be as high as 50 per cent for the best clinics.

“It is acceptable to provide certain treatments that may not have been conclusively shown to be absolutely beneficial to everybody, provided patients are informed,” he added.

Asked about critics of this idea, he said: “There are some people who are very outspoken and may have an axe to grind.”

  • More about:
  • fertility treatment
  • IVF
  • Pregnancy

Tags: , , , , ,

Copyright © 2020 RatChatter All rights reserved.
RatChatter v1.0 theme from BuyNowShop.com.