The True Cost of Black Market IVF Fertility Drugs

How saving money on illegal fertility drugs is unsafe, can cost more in the long run, and might not be tempting at all with decent fertility healthcare insurance.

Woman injects fertility drugs into her abdomen| CU Advanced Reproductive Medicine | Denver, CO

The high cost of in vitro fertilization (IVF) is leading some women and couples to purchase fertility drugs from unverified sources on the black market. These discounted drugs come with a wide range of dangers and uncertainties – and CU Advanced Reproductive Medicine advises people not to buy or sell prescription infertility drugs on the black market.

“As much as we’d like to decrease the cost, that’s not the safe way to do it,” I told Denver Channel 7’s Contact7 Investigates recently.

I added that buying blind from someone you don’t know is not safe – especially since many fertility drugs need to be refrigerated to work. There are definitely folks who can overdose on fertility medications and potentially have life-threatening complications.

Why are people taking this risk?

The TV 7 news report said the average cost of one IVF treatment cycle can cost patients anywhere from $15,000 to $20,000. However, patients may end up going through multiple treatment cycles in an attempt to become pregnant.

Infertility treatment costs aren’t burdensome because they are more expensive relative to other advanced medical care, but because they aren’t covered by most insurances. People face a financial penalty to have children using medical treatments.

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Black market fertility drugs are not the answer to IVF costs

Many of the fertility drugs found on the black market are about half the cost of what a patient would pay at a clinic. This may make for a very tempting alternative purchasing source, but the potential hazards far outweigh the risks.

The IVF drugs being illegally sold online are most often leftovers from patients choosing to sell their extra prescription treatments, which is cause enough for concern since fertility drugs vary in type and dosage.

For example, older patients are prescribed higher doses of fertility drugs. If a younger woman takes a prescription meant for an older patient, there is a chance she could overdose, which could cause life-threatening complications.

Many fertility drugs also have to be refrigerated until they are used. There is no assurance the drugs people buy online have remained refrigerated, which means that at some point they could have reached room temperature and lost their potency. Although these black market drugs are cheaper than buying from a clinic, all of the money spent would be wasted if this were the case.

There is also the chance that the IVF drugs being sold on the black market aren’t infertility treatments at all.

“There is no black market FDA overseeing quality and ingredients. The contents are not guaranteed, and you may be injecting yourself with any number of chemicals.” – Dr. Polotsky

The simple fix for fertility treatment costs: healthcare insurance

Unfortunately, infertility care is not considered an essential benefit under most health insurance plans, and many patients end up covering the cost of fertility drugs out-of-pocket. Although CU Advanced Reproductive Medicine does offer military discounts, prepaid package pricing and other ways to save, helping us come in below the average IVF treatment cycle cost, not all patients are able to afford infertility treatments even with these discounts.

A new bill called the “Colorado Building Families Act” would require health benefit plans issued or renewed in Colorado on or after January 1, 2022, to cover diagnosis of infertility, treatment for infertility and fertility preservation services.

If this bill passes, it would relieve a large amount of the financial burden of infertility treatments for patients. Changes such as this may help end the illegal sale of black market IVF drugs and help keep women and couples safer while helping build the families of the future.

 

Dr. Alex Polotsky Speaks on a Panel for the Colorado Building Families Act | blog on black market fertility drugs | CU Advanced Reproductive Medicine | Denver, CO
On January 15, 2020, Dr. Alex Polotsky (center) represented CU Advanced Reproductive Medicine at Colorado Fertility Advocates’ panel discussion on the Colorado Building Families Act.