The rise in fertility treatments in Israel has resulted in lower success rates, a study conducted by the Maccabi Health Maintenance Organization finds.
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The study, published this month in the Israeli Medical Association's journal Harefuah, is based on data regarding all the HMO's members who underwent fertility treatments over a four-year period. The figures show that while the treated patients are older and the number of treatments has increased by 50 percent, the procedure's success rate has plunged 21 percent.
The chances for success for women over 43 are very low, and at 44 only 1.7 percent of the women treated gave birth.
Israel's subsidized medical services includes HMO-funded fertility treatments up to the age of 45 and two children. The Health Ministry, which releases the treatments' success rate annually, reported a 16.7 percent success rate out of 31,978 treatment cycles in 2009. In comparison, the success rate reported in the United States by the American Centers for Disease Control is 2.4 times higher - 61,426 births out of 148,055 treatment cycles in 2008, a success of 41 percent.
"The main conclusion is that in Israel doctors perform every year thousands of in vitro fertility treatments with a very slim chance of succeeding," says Dr. Shahar Kol, head of gynecology in Maccabi's northern district, who led the research team with Dr. Tal Sela, also of Maccabi.
"This has no equal anywhere in the world. Some women continue getting treatments after 20 cycles and this reduces the overall success percentage," he says.
"While the number of fertility treatment cycles administered in Israel is the highest in the world (1,657 in vitro cycles per 1 million people ), the clinical results are not good compared to the rest of the world," the study concludes.
The Maccabi study says that from 2007 to 2010, Maccabi members who underwent fertility treatments gave birth to 6,951 children - 4.5 percent of the HMO members' overall births. Over the years the average age of patients who received fertility treatments rose by a year - from 35.12 to 36.19.
The number of fertility treatments administered each year rose by 50 percent from 2007 (6,369 ) to 2010 (9,525 ).
However, the success rate decreased from 18.8 percent of births in 2007 to 18.2 percent in 2008, 16.2 percent in 2009 and 14.8 percent in 2010.
The treatments that included returning fertilized ova, which were thawed after being frozen in previous treatments, had even lower success rates. From 16.2 percent births in 2007 they dwindled to 13.4 percent in 2010.