Bryan Caplan  

"No Frills" IVF in Africa

Original or Distilled?... Sumner on Allison...
Greg Clark's not gonna like this:

Poor and war-torn, Sudan might be the last place you would expect to find an experiment in cutting-edge fertility treatments. But by the end of October, a clinic at the University of Khartoum plans to offer in vitro fertilisation to couples for less than $300, a fraction of its cost in the west.

The clinic is one of three funded by the Low Cost IVF Foundation (LCIF) of Massagno, Switzerland, the brainchild of IVF pioneer Alan Trounson, who is now president of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine...

Meanwhile a task force set up by the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE) is also set to make IVF affordable for African couples, by vastly simplifying conventional IVF technologies. By the end of the year it plans to begin offering IVF at clinics in Cairo and Alexandria, in Egypt, for around $360.

A cycle of IVF costs about $12,000 in the U.S.  How do these guys propose to cut the cost to $300?
"Most of what we do in the western world is overkill," says Jonathan Van Blerkom of the University of Colorado at Boulder, a member of the ESHRE team...


For example, to stimulate egg production, many clinics in the west prescribe genetically engineered or "recombinant" forms of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) because it can cause women to release a dozen or more eggs per cycle... Such drugs have the disadvantage of being enormously expensive, sometimes costing thousands of dollars per round of treatment...

In contrast, clomiphene is a generic drug which prompts the pituitary gland to pump out more FSH and costs just $11 for one round of treatment.
If you think that African birth rates are too high already, it's worth pointing out that there's a lot of tragic variance:
[S]ome 10 to 30 per cent of African couples are infertile, often as a result of untreated sexually transmitted diseases, botched abortions and post-delivery pelvic infections. In Sudan, 20 per cent are infertile, double the rate in Europe and the US.

What's more, childless women in many African countries can face public ridicule, accusations of witchcraft, loss of financial support, abandonment and divorce, not to speak of their own shame and depression.
No matter how well no-frills IVF works in Africa, I suspect that medical licensing and lawsuits will keep it out of the U.S.  Alas.

Comments and Sharing

COMMENTS (5 to date)
Doc Merlin writes:

I've said it before, I'll say it again. Africa is the next big future. China is the now future, but as Africa discovers free markets and begins to fix their legal systems they will take off.

Patrick writes:

And that will happen only with what amounts to a reintroduction of colonialism. Under a different name, of course.

chipotle writes:

Do you really think Sudan will be better off with more babies? I could think of about a billion things that would help existing Sudanese people more than infertility treatments...

Felix writes:

Seems like medical "tourism" will get pretty big in the years ahead.

Where would such centers develop to support the US market? Cuba? Mexico? Indian reservations?

thelonging writes:

Do you think there will ever come a time when these low costs services are available to women (including donor egg IVF) in the west anywhere??

After a decade of infertility, treatment, going overseas etc, you are broke not only financially but more importantly spiritually and life seems impossible to face.

Comments for this entry have been closed
Return to top