East Coast Fertility Leads the Way to Fewer Premature Births With a Program That Encourages Single Embryo Transfers

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Dr. David Kreiner of East Coast Fertility is using his conscience and his expertise to provide alternatives to patients seeking fertility treatments. He is the first in the country to offer an In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF) package using Single Embryo Transfers (SET) at one set price to patients. His program should lead to fewer multiple pregnancies and premature births.

The Gift of Life and Its Price.

With all of the negative publicity surrounding the fertility industry in the wake of "octomom" and other sensational news stories, it is no wonder public opinion has turned sour towards the doctors and clinics that perform the services. Society now questions the safety, practicality and costs of aggressive treatments that often result in multiple births. The topic made front page news in the New York Times yesterday with its article "The Gift of Life and Its Price." So how do infertile couples pursue a more conservative route to parenthood - one that's safer for them and their baby, still offers high success rates, yet is affordable? Dr. David Kreiner of East Coast Fertility is using his conscience and his expertise to provide a solution. He is the first in the country to offer an In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF) package using Single Embryo Transfers (SET) at one set price to patients.

In a typical IVF cycle, a doctor will transfer two, three and sometimes more embryos back into the uterus, depending on many factors, in order to achieve the highest chance of success. However, this protocol lends itself to a high risk of multiples, making risky pregnancies, long NICU stays, babies with developmental problems and handicaps, and thus extremely high healthcare costs.

With a Single Embryo Transfer, just one embryo is placed back into the woman's uterus, nearly eliminating the chance of achieving multiples. The remaining embryos are frozen and can be transferred to the woman in future cycles.

While SET is the optimal choice for many women, the current cost structure favors transferring multiple embryos over this method. Because transferring a single embryo has a lower success rate than transferring multiple embryos, a patient may have to undergo several SET cycles before achieving a successful pregnancy. Clinics charge for each additional procedure. The patients are expected to absorb what could add up to $100 million per year in extra costs. Thus, patients and programs are pressured to transfer dangerously high numbers of embryos. The real irony lies in the fact that research has shown that universal adoption of single embryo transfers could save the healthcare system a total of $1 billion in healthcare costs. Yet, the patients who choose SET are expected to foot the bill.

That's all changing at East Coast Fertility. Their Single Embryo Transfer Program attempts to take the financial incentive out of this push to put "all your eggs in one basket." Dr. Kreiner and his staff are making it cost neutral to transfer only one embryo at a time by offering free cryopreservation, free embryo storage and free embryo transfers until a patient achieves a live birth, all for the cost of a single IVF cycle. ECF absorbs the extra costs in cases where successive transfers are needed. So, the patient can choose the more conservative route without having to worry about the financial implications. Dr. Kreiner believes the benefits to the patient and society are obvious, and he doesn't feel he is sacrificing the success of his practice. "It is with confidence in our highly successful embryo cryopreservation program that we are able to limit the number of embryos transferred without decreasing the number of births that result from IVF cycles at ECF. We are willing to sacrifice some margin in those cases where patients need successive transfers."

It remains to be seen if other clinics will follow ECF's lead. Perhaps society should demand that fertility doctors start doing what is best for the patient even if it means having to cut into their profits on occasion. "Hopefully talking about these issues will highlight some of the negative incentives that exist in the world of Reproductive Endocrinology, and bring about change in the industry," says Pamela Madsen, fertility blogger (http://www.thefertilityadvocate.com) and founder of The American Fertility Association. She continues, "It is refreshing to see Dr. Kreiner as an ethical standout in the fertility world - a patient activist who is not letting greed get in the way of practicing good medicine."

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Pamela Madsen
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