Imperial College London

Over-regulation hindering advances in infertility therapies, warns Lord Winston

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Lord Winston cautions against regulation interfering with scientific progress

Lord Winston cautions against regulation interfering with scientific progress

Advances in infertility treatments may be being hampered by unnecessary over-regulation, cautions Lord Professor Robert Winston.

Writing in an editorial in a special edition of the journal Reproduction, he cautions: “Restrictive regulation, when it seems irrational, risks professionals evading regulatory intervention and encouraging fertility tourism to less regulated countries. This is not in the interests of good medicine or good for patients.”

Lord Winston, Emeritus Professor of Fertility Studies at Imperial College London, suggests that unnecessary and restrictive legislation may be impeding new research and the development of better treatments that could improve patient outcomes.

Research, sensibly scrutinised and responsibly undertaken, will [lead] to greater clinical improvements Lord Professor Robert Winston

As guest editor of a special issue of the journal celebrating the 40th anniversary of the first successful human IVF baby, Lord Winston highlights that although there have been over six million births as a result of IVF in the last 40 years, success rates remain relatively low worldwide, with less than 21 per cent of IVF cycles resulting in a live birth in the UK.

He adds that while there is a perception that IVF is the treatment of choice for fertility problems, there are actually a number of causes of reproductive failure and there are other targeted and cheaper treatment which, depending on the cause of infertility, may be better.

Lord Winston explains that more advances in this area of reproductive health could and should have been made by now, saying: “It must be possible to improve IVF beyond a 1 in 5 success rate but more research is needed and in many countries this has declined and randomised clinical trials are rare.”

Highlighting the potential for scientific advances, such as techniques to prevent deaths from mitochondrial disease, he adds: “Such research demonstrates what can be achieved with good science.” Lord Winston concludes: “Research, sensibly scrutinised and responsibly undertaken, will [lead] to greater clinical improvements, hopefully with less cost.”

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This article is based on materials provided by Bioscientifica.

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Ryan O'Hare

Ryan O'Hare
Communications and Public Affairs

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