Only 20% IVF clinics, 2% ART units registered with ICMR
NEW DELHI: Less than 20% IVF clinics and a miniscule 2% ART centres operating in India are registered with the Indian Council of Medical Research, prompting the government to consider making enrolment of such facilities with the council mandatory.
In a move to regulate mushrooming infertility clinics and make them more accountable for services and costs, the government is planning to issue a notification. Though the provision is part of the pending Assistant Reproductive Technology Bill, the health ministry is looking at a separate notification to roll out the regulation.
While there are over 20,000 ART clinics across the country providing IVF (In Vitro Fertilisation) and IUI (intrauterine insemination ) services, merely 1,500 clinics have applied for registration with ICMR so far. "A comprehensive ART registry will be the first step to transparency in costs and quality," R S Sharma, senior deputy director general, division of reproductive biology maternal health and child Health told TOI. Of this number, only around 390 have actually completed the enrolment process, according to the ART registry set up by ICMR in 2013. A single IVF cycle can cost anywhere between Rs 1.5 to Rs 2.5 lakh. The demand for IVF and ART services is rising and could be linked to emerging demographics.
There is a rise in the proportion of women in reproductive age of 20-44 years (a 14% increase estimated between 2010 to 2020). The rise is skewed towards women in the age bracket of 30-44 years (20% estimated increase in same period). The latter display lower fertility rates.
Enrolment means compliance with ICMR guidelines like submitting documents related to infrastructure, trained manpower and procedures as per a prescribed format. "ART registry is the first step to ensuring quality treatment. We identify ART clinics ourselves too and ask them for documents but they are not meeting requirements. It is a major challenge in bringing in any kind of transparency," RS Sharma, said.
The large numbers of clinics and their misuse for sex determination is a major concern for the government. In the absence of a detailed regulation, a "grey market" of unprofessional ART clinics are operating taking advantage of couples looking to have children.
There is also no benchmark for pricing. Some clinics charge exorbitant fees while others indulge in unethical practices that adversely affect the recipient of the treatment, medically and socially, experts say. According to a 2015 Ernst & Young report, an estimated 55% of treatments take place in eight metros. Most of the insurance schemes do not cover such procedures or treatments, leaving such couples with huge out of pocket expenditures. The report also concludes that the absence of a regulatory framework leads to poor treatment outcomes and patient care.