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More not always better with in vitro fertilization

Rating

4 Star

Categories

More not always better with in vitro fertilization

Our Review Summary

Although the story did not hit all our marks, it did provide some important context for readers, especially patients who are considering fertility options. We wish most of all that it had spent more time with a few independent experts to provide some stronger analysis of the study and to help readers understand the potential harms involved in fertility treatments.

 

Why This Matters

The world of fertility medicine can be maddening — both for patients and reporters. Costs are high. New techniques are being touted with some frequency. And even though there appears to be a wealth of data about outcomes, the information is incomplete and hard to assess. Because fertility patients are dealing with one of life’s most difficult health challenges — the inability to have a child — it is all the more important for reporters to separate the emotions surrounding infertility from the evidence behind fertility treatments. This refreshing story accomplishes this, for the most part, with just a few missing elements.

Criteria

Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Satisfactory

Important information about costs is provided here.

Does the story adequately quantify the benefits of the treatment/test/product/procedure?

Satisfactory

The story quantifies the benefits of multiple IVF treatments (and the diminishing returns) in two different ways. Here’s the best summation: “Over the five-year period, some 300,000 women had more than half a million IVF cycles that resulted in 171,327 first-time deliveries. The live birth rate was 36 percent on the first IVF try, 48 percent with a second cycle and 53 percent with a third attempt. Among those who tried seven or more times, the chance of success was 56 percent — hardly any better than the 53 percent after three tries.”

Does the story adequately explain/quantify the harms of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

This story skips over any potential harms. This is problematic because women undergoing fertility treatments are often given high doses of hormones and other drugs that can have side effects and often are experimental.

Does the story seem to grasp the quality of the evidence?

Satisfactory

The story does a good job evaluating the quality of the evidence. It also provides some great context about why data about success rates can be misleading. It also presented some of the study’s limitations. The story could have pointed out that these results have not been published and have not been peer reviewed. It does say they were presented at a conference but so are a lot of published results. The findings sound dramatic, so that additional context would be important lest the peer review process take some of the drama out of the results when they are published (one assumes) at a later data.

Does the story commit disease-mongering?

Satisfactory

The story does not engage in disease mongering.

Does the story use independent sources and identify conflicts of interest?

Not Satisfactory

The story clearly draws on a range of sources and research, but we only are allowed to hear from one clinical voice in the the story: the study’s lead author. There is a paraphrase from a fertility advocacy organization at the very end of the story, but what was needed here was some clear eyed analysis of the evidence from an independent perspective.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Satisfactory

The story at least touches on alternatives to IVF, but it does not make any clear comparisons.

Does the story establish the availability of the treatment/test/product/procedure?

Satisfactory

It is clear from the story that IVF treatments are widely available. The study encompassed more than 300,000 women nationwide.

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Satisfactory

The story did a good job of covering what is new here: more is not more. The story could have done a better job showing how frequently couples actually go through three cycles of IVF. This is a bit of an omission. Also it’s not clear how often couples with fertility choose IVF over less-invasive treatments.

Does the story appear to rely solely or largely on a news release?

Satisfactory

The story does not rely solely on a press release.

Total Score: 8 of 10 Satisfactory

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