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Fox offers balanced look at infertility treatment alternative, but why is this news now?

Rating

3 Star

The alternative infertility treatment that's helping some women get pregnant

Our Review Summary

pregnancy testThis Fox News article describes an experimental fertility treatment called in vitro maturation (IVM) that modifies the “gold standard” IVF (in vitro fertilization) for use in a subset of women for whom the IVF regimen is not an option. The article is less a “news” story than a “Q and A,” and it does a pretty good job overall of making clear that IVM is not for everyone and that controlled clinical trials have not been done to scientifically compare it to IVF in terms of success rates and fetal outcomes. Apart from the lack of critical information about comparative costs and risks of IVF and IVM or other forms of fertility treatments, the article avoids disorder mongering and readers/viewers will come away with a reasonable understanding of IVM’s limitations and uses.

What is a bit problematic, perhaps, is why the article is appearing now.

There are, for example, no recent or new data or studies cited; the latest one this article appears to refer to is from a 2014 article by a group at the Technion in Israel. The procedure has been around for about a decade. So the article comes across as a bit of an “ad” for private-practice, commercial fertility clinics that offer IVM. One of the experts cited in the article is from such a clinic, in New York, which has historically issued news releases about IVM, including one noting it was the site of the first successful IVM procedures in New York.

As a public service, the article is informative, but for those with infertility problems, it’s unlikely to be telling them anything new, but instead reminding them that clinics offer the service.

 

Why This Matters

As the article emphasizes, IVM collects and matures a woman’s eggs in a laboratory dish, cutting down on the number and duration of hormone injections required for standard IVF, and initially, at least, reducing the overall cost of standard IVF. As the story also makes pretty clear, there are some women who might clearly benefit from IVM, because they cannot withstand the hormonal injections needed in IVF to stimulate ovarian release of their eggs because of cancer, other diseases, or disease therapies. So having an alternative may be useful for some. Infertility is a substantial issue from a growing number of couples, in part owing to delayed childbearing. In addition, IVF is a struggle and extremely costly, by some estimates $12,000 to $15,000 a course, and insurance companies often won’t pay for it.

Criteria

Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

Although the article states that IVM is less expensive than standard IVF because women undergo fewer hormone injections, it does not cite any cost figures for either procedure, or other assisted reproductive technologies. And it should.

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

Satisfactory

We award a Satisfactory rating here because the story does quote a range of claimed “implantation” success rates for IVM and IVF given by the American Society of Reproductive Medicine, noting that IVM appears to have much lower success rates. The article would be much stronger if it had also cited data for live births from IVF and IVM, along with the rate of adverse outcomes. Overall, 47% of assisted reproductive technology embryo transfers result in pregnancy; 38% result in live births.

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

Not Satisfactory

Although the article notes that for “some women” the hormone injections required for IVF (and presumably IVM as well) can be “downright dangerous,” it doesn’t say exactly how they are dangerous, what the dangers are, or what the dangers are of the rest of the IVF/IVM procedure in terms of fetal outcomes or biological/psychological tolls on women.

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

Satisfactory

We give this a Satisfactory rating because the article repeats the information that no randomized controlled trials have compared IVM and IVF or established IVM success/failure rates. The story concludes strongly that IVF remains the standard of care. Kudos for that.

Does the story commit disease-mongering?

Satisfactory

The article does a pretty good job of noting who is and is not a candidate for IVM. It could have done more to  give a broader picture of the rates of infertility among various groups of women in the U.S. It also could have noted that 1-3% of all babies born in the U.S. are conceived with assisted reproductive technologies (IVF and its modifications).

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

Satisfactory

The article does quote two sources who were apparently interviewed, although both are principals in reproductive medicine clinics selling their services.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Satisfactory

This is a difficult call. Although it’s possible that the story could have mentioned other assisted reproductive technologies beyond standard IVF and IVM, we think that discussion would be highly technical and probably beyond the scope of this article. We’ll award a Satisfactory here.

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

Not Satisfactory

The article really could have used some information about how widely available assisted reproductive medical expertise is in the U.S. and the fact that academic medical center, and major public hospitals and health systems, also offer the treatments along with free standing fertility clinics.

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Not Satisfactory

As mentioned earlier, it’s hard to say just why Fox is presenting this as “news now.”

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

Satisfactory

Hard to say for sure, but it would appear that there was none, and the reporter did apparently interview two sources.

Total Score: 6 of 10 Satisfactory

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