Last week the HSE issued the following statement to clarify the rumours that IVF meds were to be taken off the Drug Payment Scheme (under this scheme no individual or family pays more than €100 per month for prescription medication):
The HSE transferred a defined list of fertility medicines to the High Tech Scheme in March 2009. Unlike the Drugs Payment Scheme, the High Tech Scheme does not incur any markup but pays the pharmacist a patient care fee. Not alone did this transfer provide savings for the HSE, but it also enabled improved governance arrangements to be put in place.
The HSE indicated in its letter at the time to prescribers in registered fertility clinics that it considered three full cycles of IVF an appropriate benchmark for funding. Some established clinics in Ireland already operated such a benchmark to avoid hyper stimulation of the ovaries, which can have serious consequences for the lady.
Obviously, there has been outrage about this proposal. IVF meds will now go up from €100 per cycle to about €4000. It means the end of fertility treatment for many. It seems the HSE has decided to hit a vulnerable group of patients in the hope that public opinion will not be on their side and the cuts will go largely unchallenged. Their “reasoning” is so flawed, it makes me wonder if there are any medical people working within the HSE – I know of no clinic that operates a 3-cycle limit and the risk of hyper-stimulation of the ovaries has got nothing to do with the number of cycles a “lady” undergoes.
Also, what does “three full cycles” of IVF even mean? What if I don’t make it to egg retrieval? Or embryo transfer? What if I am doing an FET? If I have had three cycles of IUI on a high dose of FSH (that would be me, the poor responder), does that mean I have used up all my goes? In fact, as a very poor responder with zero risk of OHSS, shouldn’t I get unlimited goes?
I have written to the Irish Times to highlight the situation – letter is in today:
Madam, – The news that the HSE is to start making certain medications unavailable on the Drug Payment Scheme has come as a huge shock to those who could not otherwise afford necessary medications.
The first victims are infertility patients, who have been hit with the news that they will have to pay the full amount for IVF drugs if they need to have more than three rounds of treatment. This amounts to approximately €4,000 per cycle of IVF, up from the current monthly cost of €100, making fertility treatment unaffordable for most.
To add insult to injury, the reason the HSE has given for this – to avoid the risk of hyper-stimulation of the ovaries – is completely inaccurate and unrelated to the number of fertility treatments a woman undergoes.
What right does the HSE have to single out one particular group of patients and refuse to pay for their medication? Who will be next? – Yours, etc,
This is not just about infertility patients and whether or not the State should fund IVF (the State doesn’t pay a penny for any fertility treatment, apart from the funding of medication on the DPS). If the HSE is successful in targeting IVF patients, who will be next? Those who suffer from drug and alcohol-related illnesses? The mentally ill? If this becomes a political football, it can only end in one group of patients being pitted against another in a bid to fight their cause. It just cannot be allowed to happen.
Please sign the petition against these cuts.