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IVF success rate claims 'misleading': ACCC

AAP logoAAP 13/11/2016 Sarah Wiedersehn

Several Australian IVF clinics have been caught misleading couples about their chances of having a baby after the consumer watchdog launched an investigation aimed at improving transparency in the multi-million dollar sector.

IVF clinics were put under the ACCC microscope earlier this year following complaints many were advertising misleading information about success rates on their websites.

Of particular concern to the ACCC and the Fertility Society of Australia (FSA) was the comparative advertising being used by clinics.

In a statement released by the ACCC on Monday it said "several major" IVF clinics have been asked to make changes to claims published on their websites as a result of their review

It found many clinics, none of them named by the ACCC, failed to adequately disclose or quantify any of the data they used to make success rate comparisons.

"In addition, some IVF clinics used technical terms understood by industry participants but which may be misleading to consumers without further clarification or explanation," said ACCC Commissioner Sarah Court.

Many websites used 'clinical pregnancy' rate data to compare their success, rather than live birth rates.

These comparisons were sometimes accompanied by photographs of newborn babies, giving a "misleading impression" about the rate of successful pregnancies achieved by the clinic.

A 'clinical pregnancy' is a pregnancy that has established itself but doesn't always result in the birth of a live baby, so includes the pregnancies that resulted in miscarriage.

Ms Court said all IVF clinics are expected to ensure that success-rate comparisons are clear and accurate and based on data that is explained in non-technical terms so couples wanting a baby can rely on it to make informed choices.

"The Australian Consumer Law applies to the advertising of all goods or services offered to Australian consumers, including complex medical procedures such as these," Ms Court said.

The FSA, the industry's peak body, has welcomed the ACCC intervention but says couples should still be wary of claims made on IVF websites despite improvements made.

"It's like any advertising, the organisations they market are looking to impress people and therefore will always paint the brighter picture but for you as an individual the picture may not be so bright, so that's the important thing. Websites are not the way to get medical advice."

A person's weight, age and any underlying hormonal disorder are all factors that contribute to the success of IVF and couples need to be talking to a reputable fertility specialist, said Prof Chapman.

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