Assisted reproductive technology: public funding and the voluntary shift to single embryo transfer in Australia

Georgina M Chambers, Peter J Illingworth and Elizabeth A Sullivan
Med J Aust 2011; 195 (10): 594-598. || doi: 10.5694/mja10.11448


Objectives: To calculate cost savings to the Australian federal and state governments from the reduction in twin and triplet birth rates for infants conceived by assisted reproductive technology (ART) since 2002, and to determine the number of ART treatment programs theoretically funded by means of these savings.

Design and setting: Costing model using data from the Australia and New Zealand Assisted Reproduction Database, the National Perinatal Data Collection and Medicare Australia on ART treatment cycles undertaken in Australia between 2002 and 2008.

Main outcome measures: Annual savings in maternal and infant inpatient birth-admission costs resulting from the reduction in ART multiple birth rate; theoretical number of ART treatment programs funded and infants born by means of these savings.

Results: The reduction in the ART multiple birth rate from 18.8% in 2002 to 8.6% in 2008 resulted in estimated savings to government of $47.6 million in birth-admission costs alone. Theoretically, these savings funded 7042 ART treatment programs comprising one fresh plus one frozen embryo transfer cycle, equating to the birth of 2841 babies. Fifty-five per cent of the increased use of ART services since 2002 has been theoretically funded by the reduction in multiple birth infants.

Conclusions: Against a backdrop of supportive public funding of ART in Australia, a voluntary shift to single embryo transfer by fertility clinicians and ART patients has resulted in substantial savings in hospital costs. Much of the growth in ART use has been theoretically cross-subsidised by the move to safer embryo transfer practices.

  • Georgina M Chambers1
  • Peter J Illingworth2,3
  • Elizabeth A Sullivan1

  • 1 Perinatal and Reproductive Epidemiology Research Unit, School of Women’s and Children’s Health, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW.
  • 2 Westmead Clinical School, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW.
  • 3 IVFAustralia, Sydney, NSW.


Competing interests:

Georgina Chambers is an Australian Research Council (ARC) Postdoctoral Research Fellow funded through an ARC Linkage Grant (LP 100200165). The ARC partner organisations are IVFAustralia, Melbourne IVF and Queensland Fertility Group (Virtus Health). Peter Illingworth is a shareholder of Virtus Health and Medical Director of IVFAustralia.

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