Top honour for proving fertility treatment effective

Professor Cindy Farquhar has won the Health Research Council’s Liley Medal for her research on fertility.

The medal was presented on 17 October at a celebration dinner for the Royal Society Te Aparangi’s 2018 Research Honours Aotearoa, held at Te Papa in Wellington.

Professor Farquher’s study, published in The Lancet last November, showed the effectiveness of Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) as an alternative treatment for fertility that is less invasive and less expensive than in-vitro-fertilisation (IVF).

In a clinical trial, she showed for the first time that IUI (a procedure to place sperm in the uterus), combined with ovarian stimulation (using either of two medications, clomiphene or letrozole), was three times more effective than trying to conceive naturally in women with unexplained infertility who had an unfavourable prognosis for conceiving naturally.

Though IUI has been widely used in New Zealand, the UK, the United States and Europe, there had previously been little evidence of its success rate compared to ‘expectant management’ (when couples are advised to be sexually active around the time when ovulation is likely to occur).

The UK National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommended in 2013 that IUI should not be routinely offered in cases of unexplained infertility.

Professor Farquhar says the NICE recommendation will now be reconsidered as a result of her team’s findings.

In the trial, 101 women receiving IUI treatment had 31 live births, compared with nine live births for the 100 women assigned to ‘expectant management’.

The study concluded that IUI could be offered as a safe and effective first-line strategy for couples with unexplained infertility.

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