Only 400 fertility clinics enrolled in National Registry of ART; experts pitch for stern steps to debunk false claims
While thousands of infertility clinics have mushroomed across the country in the last few years, only around 400 facilities have so far enrolled in the National Registry of Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) Clinics established by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), official figures show.
The ICMR and the Union health ministry have set up the national registry to provide assistance to those who are engaged in treating infertility issues in the country. The council has called on all the ART clinics that practise any of the 12 listed techniques to be a part of the registry. The techniques on the list include artificial insemination with husband’s semen, artificial insemination with donor semen, intra-uterine insemination using husband semen, intra-uterine insemination using donor semen and in vitro fertilisation-embryo transfer (IVF).
However, most facilities are lukewarm about the call. The new registry, as on September 14, 2018, includes only 402 clinics that have received enrollment numbers, though non-official statistics reveal that there are over 3,000 such clinics functioning in the country, mostly in the metro cities.
“Many standalone clinics are not keen on getting themselves enrolled as the registration process is cumbersome and voluntary. They have to submit details of infrastructure facilities, skilled manpower and procedures being undertaken at the facility. Moreover, the enrollment number is not a stamp of approval as the Council banks on information provided by the registered clinics. The data is yet to be verified by the expert committee. The verification process is currently underway,” a health ministry official said on condition of anonymity.
According to the World Health Organisation estimate, India has around 19 million infertile couples, making fertility treatment a sought-after and lucrative business. In the absence of an update national registry or centralsed data, clinics can make exaggerated claims regarding success rate and hapless couples regularly get duped, say IVF experts.
“Research has revealed that the biological clock of Indian women ticks much faster than their Caucasian counterparts. Aping the Western lifestyle blindly and delaying marriage and pregnancy can lead to infertility. We have fertility clinics run by ayurvedic, Unani and naturopathy specialists. They all are armed with clearances issued by the government. Many private clinics and hospitals misrepresent data as there is no effective regulation or monitoring,” Dr Parul Sehgal, fertility consultant at Nova IVI Fertility in Delhi, told Pharmabiz.
Though the global success rate of IVF cycles is around 30-35 per cent, many Indian facilities claim up to 70 per cent success rate. For instance, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data shows that IVF cycles result in live births in 38 per cent of women under 35. Yet a top IVF clinic in Delhi states on its official website that it “has delivered to its many patients their own babies with the IVF success rate of approximately 50-72 per cent.”
Health activists are making a pitch for rigorous laws to regulate ART clinics to ensure safe and ethical practices. The draft Assisted Reproductive Technology (Regulation) Bill, which would help regulate ART clinics, has been in the cold storage for quite long. The Bill was drafted in 2008, and underwent reviews and re-drafting first in 2010 and later in 2014. If it is enacted, all clinics in the country will have to submit their data to the central registry, thereby stopping them from making bogus claims. “The ICMR’s move to create a database on approved clinics is a welcome step. But the registration is not mandatory; we need stringent and fool-proof regulations to weed out charlatans,” Dr Sehgal opined.