Reports show that India is witnessing a high burden of infertility, with an estimated 30 million couples in the reproductive age suffering from lifetime infertility.
By Vinesh Gadhia
July 25 is celebrated as World IVF Day across the globe to commemorate the essence and significance of IVF in infertility treatment. This year it has been 43 years since the first IVF baby, Louise Brown, arrived on the scene as a beacon of hope, changing the history of infertility medicine forever.
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Research estimates that since then 9 million babies have been born through IVF technique world over. If one puts in perspective, it is the entire population of a mega city like New York that IVF has helped in creating.
It is generally assumed that the second IVF baby was born 67 days later in India named Kanupriya Agarwal, however, the official data pegs Harsha Chawda as country’s first IVF baby born in 1986. Their births heralded a new era of IVF intervention for infertility in India. As misnomer it may sound the fact remains that India, the second most populous nation in the world, is fast climbing the global infertility chart.
Reports show that India is witnessing a high burden of infertility, with an estimated 30 million couples in the reproductive age suffering from lifetime infertility. In 1990, the Total Fertility Rate (TFR), which is the average number of children that would be born to a woman if she experiences the current fertility pattern throughout her reproductive span (18 to 49 years), was 3.9 and by 2020 it had fallen to 2.0 for the Indian couples.
Clinical factors, racial and ethnicity factors alongside issues like longer median age for family planning and unhealthy lifestyle are being found as the biggest contributors to rising national infertility.
Even with India’s infertility numbers looming at 30 million only a mere 1% of the couples register themselves for IVF intervention. The rest are unable or choose not to opt for medical treatment because of variety of reasons that includes lack of awareness, lack of access, affordability apprehensions etc.
Through the present operational 1750+ IVF clinics and hospitals, India does an average of 250,000 cycles a year, with a significant concentration being performed in metro cities. The country needs approximately 600,000 cycles to adequately meet the demand and address its infertility issue. While there is a need for the industry to upscale its delivery mechanism to accommodate 600,000 cycles need, it also needs to diversify its services to wider cities and cater to sizeable mix of patients. Presently, the top 8 cities namely Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, and Pune account for 55% of the IVF cycles per annum.
The Indian IVF industry is a potential USD 12 billion market that is growing at a steady CAGR of 20% Year on Year (YoY). In the IVF service provider universe IVF clinics account for 16%, within which clinics owned by organized chains make up 3%, and these centers account for 30% to 32% of total annual cycles.
While India does have few world-class doctor-owned clinics that are successful ventures but largely it is the PE backed clinics that are best equipped to serve patients in an utmost manner. These clinics have better access to funds for deployment on groundbreaking technology, latest equipment, research or license use, better human resources etc. that gives it a competitive edge over the others.
Global fertility chains offering super specialty treatment, propelled by their desire to offer the same gold standards of service globally, are slowly becoming the hallmark of service standards in India.
A major hindrance that prevents needy couples from considering IVF is their misconception on the affordability of the service. The issue of affordability is perceived and not real as India offers the lowest IVF cost with global-at-par treatment. At the prevailing fees of USD 2000 to 2500 USD per cycle, the treatment is available and viable even for middle class demographic.
However, the biggest hindrance to acceptance of IVF treatment is the lack of awareness and access. To ensure that as an industry we are better equipped to help our fellow Indians realize their dream of parenthood we urge the regulators and government authorities to recognize infertility at par with other diseases like diabetes, heart diseases etc. This step will help remove the associated stigma and encourage open conversations that will go a long way to impact social change, which in turn will transform our society.
(The author is CEO (India Operations), ART Fertility Clinics. The article is for informational purposes only. Please consult health experts and medical professionals before starting any therapy or medication. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of the Financial Express Online.)