Nations have been hit with one of the hardest human, economic and social challenges of our time, with COVID-19 shockwaves still being felt all around the world.
30 JUN 2020
Head of Global Business Franchise for Fertility
The future of fertility treatment
Nations have been hit with one of the hardest human, economic and social challenges of our time, with COVID-19 shockwaves still being felt all around the world. The pandemic brought significant changes to the way we communicate, live and work with each other – changes which will most likely be felt far into the future.
How COVID-19 has affected the conference experience
The fertility community has been hit heavily. Many organizations like the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE) and the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) have recommended halting egg freezing, in vitro fertilization (IVF), and other assisted reproductive technology (ART) procedures, leaving aspiring parents with no choice but to put their dreams of having a family on hold temporarily.1 Before COVID-19, 1.2m ART cycles had been projected to take place in 2020 across the US, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the UK, and Japan.2 From my personal point of view, estimates show only 2/3 of that number will take.
The pandemic saw an acceleration in innovation in the fertility industry around home delivery and tele-health, such as home treatment solutions which offer greater accessibility and convenience for clinicians and patients. Perhaps the increased adoption of digital health tools is one of the silver linings to COVID-19 for IVF/ART. During these closures of centers, we all used this to drive us forward to improve our digital services to ensure we can support patients better than ever before.
Therefore, this year’s ESHRE meeting will be special, the first to gather virtually, celebrating 36 years of reproductive science and medicine. At Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, we are embracing the change with a virtual booth and extensive scientific program. Our booth is manned 24/7 by a virtual crew who will be there to help with all our delegates’ questions and requests, and will feature an interactive e-poster creation tool helping physicians to educate patients attending their clinics. We will also be providing novel clinical insights on ART after 2020 to healthcare professionals in a sponsored Symposium broadcast on our Digital Congress Center (DCC), as well as hosting webinars and ‘daily highlight sessions’ for our global audience.
As described in the beginning of this article, the pandemic situation has accelerated innovation in the fertility industry. Digital health tools have seen a surge in adoption across the globe with telehealth growing more in the last two months than it has over the last decade. Originally, a doctor’s abilities to adequately examine their patients remotely (monitor hormones, ultrasound, and other biomarkers) have been limited. However, we at Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany are developing new technologies and apps which allow digital monitoring to take place at home, reducing the need for in-person appointments and enabling clinicians to make decisions in real-time. We are working hard to build up our unique digital health portfolio with exciting new developments coming this autumn – watch this space.
Clinical research over all areas has seen a 65% worldwide average decrease in new patient enrolment during March due to COVID-19.3 For us at Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany real-world data has always been important to drive clinical insights and this has become even more so during COVID-19 to complement the limits of controlled trials. Collecting and utilizing data from normal clinical practices that reflect the reality of healthcare delivery is increasingly significant in the drug and technology approval process. ART clinics and registries can produce large quantities of real-world data which can be leveraged to understand the causes of infertility, and help to develop more personalized care for patients.
We are in this together
As we reflect on the challenges, we’ve been faced with throughout this pandemic we must remind ourselves of a sentiment that now resonates more than ever – we are all in this together. We at Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany are committed to driving innovation, to help people on their fertility journey to maximize their chances of success and the support they need, be it through digital health or increased data analysis to help shape the future of fertility post COVID-19 and beyond.
1 ESHRE. May 2020. ESHRE guidance on recommencing ART treatments. URL: https://www.eshre.eu/-/media/sitecore-files/Guidelines/COVID19/ESHRE-Guidance-on-Recommencing-ART-treatmentsupdate-04052020.pdf. Last accessed: June 2020
2GlobalData Healthcare. May 2020. Covid-19 pandemic interferes with ongoing clinical developments in female health. URL: https://www.clinicaltrialsarena.com/comment/covid-19-interferes-female-health/. Last accessed: June 2020
3Medidata. April 2020. COVID-19 and Clinical Trials: The Medidata Perspective. URL: https://www.medidata.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/COVID19-Response5.0Clinical-Trials20200518_v2.2.pdf. Last accessed: June 2020
- July 2020