Medical Contribution By Dr. Michael Levy
It’s been a year since Shady Grove Fertility announced an innovative program that makes getting pregnant and having a baby an affordable dream for many.
For so very many people, the problem isn’t finding the best technology to get pregnant: the problem is affording it.
Recognizing the financial burden of fertility treatment, Dr. Michael Levy first pioneered the Shared Risk financial concept for IVF treatment in 1991. Then, in 2007, he and his colleagues at Shady Grove Fertility developed the Shared Donor Program.
The Bottom Line, First
The reason for the program is simple, Dr. Levy explains. “A single donor-egg cycle in most parts of the country runs between $25,000 and $35,000. In the Shared Donor Program, a single (fee for service) 1:3 shared cycle is $14,600.”
“If patients choose to also protect themselves against the financial downside, they can combine the 1:3 shared Donor cycle within the Shared Risk Program (which includes six cycles) at $29,000, with a full refund if unsuccessful. This includes all costs: the donor fee, medications, and prescreening costs.”
As the use of donor eggs has become increasingly commonplace due to advanced and successful technology, changes over time have resulted in higher costs to patients. Fees paid to donors are generally around $3,000 more than a decade ago. The most recent FDA regulations for any medical practice utilizing human tissue (such as egg cells) require more frequent and thorough pre-screenings, resulting in more costs.
A Pragmatic Approach to Treatment
Along the same lines, the growing interest by patients in donor egg IVF combined with the more stringent regulations adds up to a shortage of high-quality egg donors. The Shady Grove Fertility Shared Donor Program allows for more ready access — and less waiting for anxious parents-to-be — through sharing this essential yet limited resource.
The Shared Donor Program serendipitously helps resolve another problem: the burden of too many unused frozen embryos.
Levy explains, “We recognized that in two-thirds of our donor-recipient treatment cycles, more eggs were retrieved than necessary for an individual couple, which in turn meant that more excess frozen embryos were created.
Donors and their eggs can be shared through this program by more than one potential recipient, which decreases the patients’ out-of-pocket expenses. The outcome is that far more people who would otherwise not be able to access IVF – and pregnancy – can do so.
The delivery rates in the 1:1 and 1:2 donor programs are 49% per initiated cycle. In the 1:3 Shared Donor Program, the delivery rate is 53% per initiated cycle. The cancellation rate is about 10% for the 1st and 2nd recipient, and 25% for the 3rd recipient. More detailed statistics on all of these Shared Donor Program options will be available in the near future.
An Unexpected Bonus
One of the pleasant outcomes from the introduction of the Shady Grove Fertility Shared Donor Program has been the reversal of a trend being spotted across the United States – Americans traveling abroad for fertility treatment. Plenty of articles have highlighted how fertility patients from the U.S. are finding they can only afford treatment in other countries, for better or for worse. Dr. Levy believes that SGF’s Shared Donor Program is actually leading to more travel in the opposite direction.
“We have had great success with international patients. We have established relationships with fertility caregivers in the UK, and have had many international patients ‘cross the pond’ and seek our services, especially with the Shared Donor Program,” Levy reports.
An Idea Comes to Life
When the staff of Shady Grove Fertility first let the world know about their unique Shared Donor Program a year ago, they expected the news to be big. A year later, they like what they’ve been able to offer to the patients who’ve come forth to give the donor sharing concept a try. They’ve also learned a few things.
“Most patients thus far are choosing the 1:2 (one donor, two recipients) option,” says Dr. Levy. “And they seem particularly pleased with the ability to review and select donors on our website, which is phenomenal.” He expects more fertility patients will become accustomed to the idea of sharing 1:3 as they learn about the program’s success.
The process by which patients choose their egg donor is conducted online. Information on the available donors—including their own early childhood photos – is placed online in a secure way for recipients’ viewing. Donors are grouped according to whether or not their eggs can be used in a 1:2, 1:3, or all (1:1) possible treatment cycles. Their grouping is determined by a mix of variables, such as age and ovarian reserve, that combine to impact how many eggs might be retrieved from a given donor.
Just as the idea of Shared Risk Programs started at the Shady Grove Fertility and is now frequently offered at clinics around the country, fertility patients in the future can expect to see the idea of sharing egg donors for purposes of affordability and practicality boom eventually as well. For now, Shady Grove Fertility offers patients who want to use donor egg to conceive the chance to share a donor with up to two other recipients for significant savings and the most optimized chances.