STUDY QUESTION: Is a freeze-only strategy more cost-effective from a patient perspective than fresh embryo transfer (ET) after one completed In Vitro Fertilization/ Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (IVF/ICSI) cycle in women without polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)? SUMMARY ANSWER: There is a low probability of the freeze-only strategy being cost-effective over the fresh ET strategy for non-PCOS women undergoing IVF/ICSI. WHAT IS KNOWN ALREADY: Conventionally, IVF embryos are transferred in the same cycle in which oocytes are collected, while any remaining embryos are frozen and stored. We recently evaluated the effectiveness of a freeze-only strategy compared with a fresh ET strategy in a randomized controlled trial (RCT). There was no difference in live birth rate between the two strategies. STUDY DESIGN, SIZE, DURATION: A cost-effectiveness analysis (CEA) was performed alongside the RCT to compare a freeze-only strategy with a fresh ET strategy in non-PCOS women undergoing IVF/ICSI. The effectiveness measure for the CEA was the live birth rate. Data on the IVF procedure, pregnancy outcomes and complications were collected from chart review; additional information was obtained using patient questionnaires, by telephone. PARTICIPANTS/MATERIALS, SETTING, METHODS: For all patients, we measured the direct medical costs relating to treatment (cryopreservation, pregnancy follow-up, delivery), direct non-medical costs (travel, accommodation) and indirect costs (income lost). The direct cost data were calculated from resources obtained from patient records and prices were applied based on a micro-costing approach. Indirect costs were calculated based on responses to the questionnaire. Patients were followed until all embryos obtained from a single controlled ovarian hyperstimulation cycle were used or a live birth was achieved. The incremental cost-effectiveness ratio (ICER) was based on the incremental cost per couple and the incremental live birth rate of the freeze-only strategy compared with the fresh ET strategy. Probabilistic sensitivity analysis (PSA) and a cost-effectiveness acceptability curve (CEAC) were also performed. MAIN RESULTS AND THE ROLE OF CHANCE: Between June 2015 and April 2016, 782 couples were randomized to a freeze-only (n = 391) or a fresh ET strategy (n = 391). Baseline characteristics including mean age, Body Mass Index (BMI), anti-Mullerian hormone, total dose of Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH), number of oocytes obtained, good quality Day 3 embryos, fertility outcomes and treatment complications were comparable between the two groups. The live birth rate (48.6% vs. 47.3%, respectively; risk ratio, 1.03; 95% Confidence Interval [CI], 0.89, 1.19; P = 0.78) and the average cost per couple (3906 vs. 3512 EUR, respectively; absolute difference 393.6, 95% CI, -76.2, 863.5; P = 0.1) were similar in the freeze-only group versus fresh ET. Corresponding costs per live birth were 8037 EUR versus 7425 EUR in the freeze-only versus fresh ET group, respectively. The incremental cost for the freeze-only strategy compared with fresh ET was 30 997 EUR per 1% additional live birth rate. The direct non-medical costs and indirect costs of infertility treatment strategies represented ∼45-52% of the total cost. PSA shows that the 95% CI of ICERs was -263 901 to 286 681 EUR. Out of 1000 simulations, 44% resulted in negative ICERs, including 13.0% of simulations in which the freeze-only strategy was dominant (more effective and less costly than fresh ET), and 31% of simulations in which the fresh embryo strategy was dominant. In the other 560 simulations with positive ICERs, the 95% CI of ICERs ranged from 2155 to 471 578 EUR. The CEAC shows that at a willingness to pay threshold of 300 000 EUR, the probability of the freeze-only strategy being costeffective over the fresh ET strategy would be 58%. LIMITATIONS, REASONS FOR CAUTION: Data were collected from a single private IVF center study in Vietnam where there is no public or insurance funding of IVF. Unit costs obtained might not be representative of other settings. Data obtained from secondary sources (medical records, financial and activity reports) could lack authenticity, and recall bias may have influenced questionnaire responses on which direct costs were based. WIDER IMPLICATIONS OF THE FINDINGS: In non-PCOS women undergoing IVF/ICSI, the results suggested that the freeze-only strategy was not cost-effective compared with fresh ET from a patient perspective. These findings indicate that other factors could be more important in deciding whether to use a freeze-only versus fresh ET strategy in this patient group. STUDY FUNDING/COMPETING INTEREST(S): This study was funded by My Duc Hospital; no external funding was received. Ben Willem J. Mol is supported by an NHMRC Practioner Fellowship (GNT 1082548) and reports consultancy for Merck, ObsEva and Guerbet. Robert J. Norman has shares in an IVF company and has received support from Merck and Ferring. All other authors have no conflicts of interest to declare.
- Fresh embryo transfer