Universal coverage of IVF pays off

M P Vélez, M P Connolly, I-J Kadoch, S Phillips, F Bissonnette
Human Reproduction 2014, 29 (6): 1313-9

STUDY QUESTION: What was the clinical and economic impact of universal coverage of IVF in Quebec, Canada, during the first calendar year of implementation of the public IVF programme?

SUMMARY ANSWER: Universal coverage of IVF increased access to IVF treatment, decreased the multiple pregnancy rate and decreased the cost per live birth, despite increased costs per cycle.

WHAT IS KNOWN ALREADY: Public funding of IVF assures equality of access to IVF and decreases multiple pregnancies resulting from this treatment. Public IVF programmes usually mandate a predominant SET policy, the most effective approach for reducing the incidence of multiple pregnancies.

STUDY DESIGN, SIZE, DURATION: This prospective comparative cohort study involved 7364 IVF cycles performed in Quebec during 2009 and 2011 and included an economic analysis.

PARTICIPANTS/MATERIALS, SETTING, METHODS: IVF cycles performed in the five centres offering IVF treatment in Quebec during 2009, before implementation of the public IVF programme, were compared with cycles performed at the same centres during 2011, the first full calendar year following implementation of the programme. Data were obtained from the Canadian Assisted Reproductive Technologies Register (CARTR). Comparisons were made between the two periods in terms of utilization, pregnancy rates, multiple pregnancy rates and costs.

MAIN RESULTS AND THE ROLE OF CHANCE: The number of IVF cycles performed in Quebec increased by 192% after the new policy was implemented. Elective single-embryo transfer was performed in 1.6% of the cycles during Period I (2009), and increased to 31.6% during Period II (2011) (P < 0.001). Although the clinical pregnancy rate per embryo transfer was lower in 2011 than in 2009 (24.9 versus 39.9%, P < 0.001), the multiple pregnancy rate was greatly reduced (6.4 versus 29.4%, P < 0.001). The public IVF programme increased government costs per IVF treatment cycle from CAD$3730 to CAD$4759. Despite increased costs per cycle, the efficiency defined by the cost per live birth, which factored in downstream health costs up to 1 year post delivery, decreased from CAD$49 517 to CAD$43 362 per baby conceived by either fresh and frozen cycles.

LIMITATIONS, REASONS FOR CAUTION: The costs described in the economic model are likely an underestimate as they do not factor in many of the long-term costs that can occur after 1 year of age. The information collected in the Canadian ART register precludes the calculation of cumulative pregnancy rates.

WIDER IMPLICATIONS OF THE FINDINGS: Our study confirms that the implementation of a public IVF programme favouring eSET not only sharply decreases the incidence of multiple pregnancy, but also reduces the cost per live birth.

STUDY FUNDING/COMPETING INTEREST(S): M.P.V. holds a fellowship award from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). The economic analysis performed by M.P.C. was supported by an unrestricted grant from Ferring Pharmaceutical.

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