US$1bn IVF opportunity in Middle East and North Africa

A new report by global real estate company, Colliers International, claims that the current global In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) market is estimated to be US$10-US$12 billion, while the current IVF market size for Middle East & North Africa (MENA) is approximately US$1 billion. They also state that medical tourism accounts for 10%-15% of the IVF patient volumes to the region. No sources for these medical travel estimates are given, and the authors admit there is no definitive, accurate data available on IVF for the Middle East.

The summary report (‘In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) & Fertility in the MENA region’, is published as part of the MEDLAB Market Report series to promote their associated conferences) revealed that compared to 10% worldwide, infertility in the MENA region is 15% or higher, with male infertility a growing problem occurring in approximately 50% of the cases in the GCC and Middle East due to lifestyle, diabetes, obesity and genetics related factors, as GCC countries have one of the highest diabetic and obesity rates in the world.

The report highlighted that although the population in the MENA region has increased from over 100 million in 1950 to 380 million in 2017 and is expected to increase to 700 million by 2050, overall infertility rates have decreased from seven children per women in 1960 to just three in 2017.

The report looks at the fertility rates in MENA region and, despite overall high population growth rates, assesses why IVF remains in demand in the region, especially in the GCC countries. It says that the most common nationalities seeking IVF in the UAE are Emirates, GCC nationals and expatriates from the sub-continent and Africa. Lately patients have also started coming from China.

The report authors state that their global IVF market estimate of between US$10-12bn has been based on ‘various studies’, and their MENA estimate has been ‘drawn from a number of studies and discussions with key players’.

Commenting on some of the key insights on the UAE’s IVF industry, Mansoor Ahmed, Director Healthcare, Education & PPP for MENA Region at Colliers International, said: “IVF is not only sought after locally but is one of the leading treatments undertaken by medical tourists in the UAE, especially in Dubai. Based on Colliers’ discussions with leading operators, medical tourism accounts for 10% to 15% of the IVF patient volumes.”

The report does not provide a definition of a medical tourist to calculate this inbound 10-15% figure.

According to the report, new innovations and improved testing techniques are gradually creating paradigm shifts in the field of assistive reproductive technology. This includes the increased focus on pre-marital screening for consanguineous (relatives) couples and the development of new genetic tests for screening of the embryos greatly improves the chance of minimising certain genetic diseases common in this region.

The report highlights regulatory challenges in the Middle East IVF market, including restrictions on embryo freezing and separate licensing requirements across different Emirates.

Dr Laura Melado, Specialist – Obstetrics & Gynecology, IVF, IVI Middle East Fertility Clinic, Abu Dhabi, UAE, commented: “The Carrier Genetic Test (CGT) helps to determine the risk of having a child with a genetic disease. Anyone, without knowing, can be a carrier of one or more recessive mutations, but some couples have higher possibilities to carry the same genes. when this happens, Pre-implantation Genetic Testing (PGD) can be done for the embryos as part of the fertility treatment to help the couples to deliver healthy babies.”