With costs for fertility drugs running in the thousands and insurance coverage either sharply limited or nonexistent, it's not surprising to learn that couples are turning to the Internet to find fertility drugs at a discount. But are the risks greater than the savings?
Dr. Jamie Grifo, Director of the Division of Reproductive Endocrinology at Mount Sinai-NYU Medical Center/Health System and Vice-President of the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technologies, visits The Early Show Thursday to discuss the the dangers.
Nearly 6.1 million Americans suffer from infertility disease. Men and women are affected equally: low sperm count in men, ovulation disorders, fibroids and pelvic inflammatory disease in women. But because of high treatment and drug expenses, only about 20 percent of infertile couples seek medical help for infertility each year, according to a recent survey by the International Council on Infertility Information Dissemination.
Average pharmacy costs can range from $2,477 per treatment for protein hormones used to stimulate the ovaries to produce eggs to $3,847 for Gonal-F, the most commonly used injectable drug. Often a patient will require multiple drug therapies to conceive. And that's just the drugs. Couples need to add the costs of doctors' visits and treatments.
A 1998 study of fertility clinics by the Centers for Disease Control pegged the average cost of treatments at about $8,000 per attempt. The total tab can be as high as $40,000 to $50,000 for some couples. Of those who stay the fertility clinic course, only about 20 percent go home with a new son or daughter.
Essentially there are three online options for purchasing infertility drugs:
- Legitimate, licensed and registered pharmacies
- Off-shore (foreign) drug suppliers
- Message board and chat room postings
It's these last two that concern regulators and physicians. With both off-shore purchases and individual sales, there is no guarantee of quality control, dosing standards or professional storage and transport. In individual sales and swaps, tampering or contamination is always a threat, though there have been no known cases of either yet reported.
Furthermore, the sale of prescription drugs by anyone but a licensed pharmacist is a misdemeanor that could result in fines and/or jail time, though that has rarely happened. Shipping drugs through the U.S. Postal Service steps a misdemeanor up to mail fraud charges.
The following is Dr. Grifo's advice on buying fertility drugs online: Use a licensed pharmacy, get a fertility specialist and get your own prescription.
Links for Additional Information
- Mount Sinai School of Medicine - Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility Treatments.
- Resolve.org - Questions to ask if you are considering buying medication over the Internet.
- The American Infertility Association - Dos and Don'ts of eShopping.
- FertileThoughts - General infertility questions
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - 1997 Assisted Reproductive Technology Success Rates.
- American Society of Reproductive Medicine.
- International Council on Infertility Information Dissemination.
- American Medical Association.
- Fertility Drugs and Treatment Costs and Statistics.
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