“You have to be very careful, because you just don’t know what you are getting on the Internet, including medicines that appear to be coming from legitimate pharmacies,” cautions Thomas, division director of reproductive endocrinology at the University of Cincinnati (UC) College of Medicine.
Recent news reports tell how private citizens have even taken to offering up fertility drugs for auction on classified sales sites on the Internet.
What fertility product is most likely to show up for sale? Thomas says it’s most likely the more costly injectable medicines that stimulate the ovaries. These fertility drugs, Thomas says, are often used in conjunction with in vitro fertilization (IVF) procedures and can cost anywhere from $2,000 to $4,000 per IVF cycle.
It’s an expense, he says, that few patients take lightly, which creates an opportunity for someone else to capitalize on an already emotionally vulnerable population.
He says physicians are always concerned about patients getting too much medication and potentially causing an overstimulation.
“Knowing the potency of the medication given is very important so that we can predict an individual patient’s stimulation pattern,” Thomas says. “However, with fertility drugs purchased from unreliable sources, all bets may be off as far as predicting how a patient will respond. The first three to five days of stimulation is key to the success or failure of that patient’s cycle.
“You want to make sure that you’re not getting a bunch of saltwater mixed with baby powder.”
Thomas also discourages trading medications with a family member or acquaintance or acquiring fertility medications from outside the United States, where the cost might be less.
“Outside the United States you have no idea how regulated the drugs are, nor the quality.”
Add to the list of concerns expiration date, storage temperatures and false packaging, and it could wind up costing a person more to repeat the injections through the appropriate channels … and in the worst case, physical harm.
While Thomas says that the cost of fertility drugs doesn’t vary much between retail pharmacies, he says it can vary significantly through FDA-approved wholesale specialty pharmacies. However, with wholesale pharmacies the office staff facilitates the purchase, via phone or fax, and not the patient.
“It’s always better to work with your doctor’s office,” he says, adding that his staff is trained to look for every avenue to assist patients with the financial element of infertility treatment.
For more information about the UC Health Center for Reproductive Health call 513-475-7600 or visit ucfertility.com.