Only a handful are enrolled with the national registry of Indian Council of Medical Research.
New Delhi: According to estimates by World Health Organisation, 13-19 million couples are infertile in India. This has also led to mushrooming of In-Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) clinics across the country, the highest being in the national capital.
Even as the standalone clinics grow unhindered, only a handful of them are actually enrolled with the national registry of Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) since 2012, when it opened registration for such clinics.
According to data with ICMR, out of 1,515 “identified” Assisted Reproductive Technology’ (ART) centres, only 385 are enrolled; out of which 48 are in Delhi, even as 385 have been are estimated to be functioning. However, experts said that the number of unregulated clinics is much higher and this is because of the voluntary nature of registration.
“The enrolment/registration of the ART clinics under the National Registry of ICMR is voluntary, therefore the response rate is low,” said Dr R.S. Sharma, senior deputy director general, division of reproductive biology, maternal and child health, at ICMR.
The ICMR sends “requests” to such clinics for enrolling themselves but according to Dr Sharma, 465 such clinics across India have not responded to these requests till date.
The registration process requires extensive details like the technique of ART they are providing, kind of facilities and manpower and their qualification, licensing of ultrasound machines and other equipment, number of patients per week, the details of the embryologist and other specialists, whether the clinic is doing some genetic study or only IVF.
ART centres in both government and private hospitals have registered with ICMR but most of the standalone clinics are still running unregulated.
IVF, a form of ART, is used to conceive the child outside the woman’s body. The eggs and sperms are placed together under controlled conditions for fertilisation, after which the resulting embryos are placed back in the woman’s uterus to initiate pregnancy.
Reasons such as late marriages, career-oriented couples, erratic lifestyle and environmental toxins which lead to pelvic inflammatory diseases are behind the rise in infertility among couples, in turn leading to acceptance of fertility treatments such as IVF. Most of the unregulated clinics cash on this opportunity.
“Not all clinics are registering, only the big well-known ones are. These days, people are opening IVF clinics in homes also. A small gynaecologist clinic can be turned into IVF clinic,” said Dr Sudha Prasad of Maulana Azad Medical College (MAMC).
The government hospital, which has facility for ART procedures, the only other except AIIMS, sees 300-400 patients on a weekly basis and claims of a success rate of 40-45 per cent.
Dr Prasad said that she encounters many patients who have tried their luck at private clinics and duped of their money.
“They say that they were not even informed how many eggs have they put, when did they do the embryo transfer, they have no record,” she said.
The amount at these private clinics are anywhere between Rs 1.5 lakh to Rs 2 lakh. Contrast this with government hospitals where the treatment is free and the patient has to pay only for the drugs used to make eggs, which come to around Rs 20,000.
Fertility experts said that ICMR guidelines lack teeth and only the ART Bill can ensure strict compliance. The bill has been in the works for many years now but is still awaiting the Parliament nod.
“If the bill becomes a law, mushrooming of these clinics will be checked. Currently ICMR is just requesting these clinics to come and register with it. There is not sufficient monitoring of existing clinics. If this bill is passed, these clinics will be under the purview of punishment,” said another expert, who did not wish to be identified.
However, not all standalone clinics are bad, said Dr Sudha. “Many of them who are recognised are doing a very good job. But there should be more government hospitals offering these services,” she concludes.