Patrick Steptoe and Robert Edwards were responsible for the birth of the world’s 1st IVF baby, Louise Brown, in 1978. Since then about >5 million babies have been born worldwide, and the number is growing fast. The introduction of Assisted Reproductive technology (ART) which comprises IVF and associated procedure has literally revolutionized the treatment of infertility and Reproductive failure but has also spawned religious and social controversy.
In 2011, in the United States, the infertility services market was about $3.5 million. This number has been growing rapidly such that it is estimated that in 2025 it is likely to be closer to $8.0 billion. ART comprises about one half of this overall Infertility Services market. It is made up of about 1,000 IVF/ART centers, > 200 sperm as well as a rapidly growing number of egg banks and third party parenting (egg donor and gestational surrogacy) agencies. In addition, there are currently several large companies that focus almost entirely on the marketing of pharmaceuticals products that are used in the treatment of infertility. Currently, ART is serviced by > 3000 fertility physicians in this country.
The number of IVF cycles performed in the U.S.A has grown from 70,000 in 1997 to almost 170,000 in 2014 and is projected to be > 250,000 by 2025. While at first glance this suggests growing access to IVF in this country it nevertheless meets <20% of the need (which presently is for 1.0 million procedures per year). This large discrepancy between supply and demand for IVF services, is largely because IVF, an elective procedures remains unaffordable to most who need access. The fact is that currently, fewer than 50% of patients who have medical insurance, are being covered for ART service. And, the high cost of $10,000-$20,000 cost per procedure puts IVF and related procedures outside the reach of most. I consider it to be a profound embarrassment that when compared to other 1st world countries, the United States ranks among the lowest of 1st world countries ,when it comes to servicing the ART needs of its population.
Most IVF clinics in the United States are still comprised of small or intermediate in size practices and operate independently or form part of a hospital or University. Such clinics generate on average $2.5-$6.0 million annually. However, through mergers and acquisitions, many of these smaller centers are forming large conglomerates that function as “corporate networks”.
In the United Stated, ART is an unregulated industry. It is overseen by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) and its subsidiary, The Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology (SART). Unsupervised, non-audited, IVF outcome statistics are self-reported by clinics to SART and/or to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) annually.