The advertising featuring a female voiceover referred to the following:
“As the proverb goes, worry often gives a small thing a big shadow. If you're a couple trying to get pregnant and it's not happening, don't worry - take action. Sims IVF Cork invites you to take a free ‘his and hers’ fertility test. If there's a problem, our dedicated medical team based in Mahon, Cork, will find it. Our aim is to help you realise your dream of having a healthy baby.
Visit sims.ie/cork and don't worry, new beginnings happen every day at Sims IVF Cork.”
An offer for “Free His and Hers Fertility Tests at Sims IVF Cork” stated
Sims IVF is offering you free His and Hers Fertility tests during the month of May 2017. This involves for the woman a simple AMH blood test that will accurately predict how fertile you are, and a Semen Analysis test for the male partner. This offer is available when you register during the month of May 2017.”
Issue 1 – Radio Advertising
The complainant considered the claim “If there’s a problem, our dedicated medical team …. will find it” to be misleading. She did not consider that it was possible to guarantee that all fertility problems could be identified and said it was sometimes the case that infertility problems may fall into the category of “unexplained fertility (sic)”. She said that if the problem was caused by poor egg quality this may only come to light after an IVF procedure has taken place. She said she had been medically informed that it can sometimes take even more than one IVF procedure before this can be diagnosed.
Issue 2 - Internet
The complainant considered the claim that AMH tests would “accurately predict” how fertile a woman was, to be irresponsible. She said fertility could at times be far more complex than AMH levels and she queried the accuracy of the results in every case.
The advertisers said they disagreed with the complainant’s view that the Anti Mullerian Hormone blood test (AMH) was not an accurate indicator of a woman’s fertility prognosis and said they wished to make the following points:
• The advertisers said that unexplained infertility is what was left when all available reasonable investigations had taken place and that some 20% of the infertile population fell into this category. The primary investigations to understand infertility were varied and complex, however, AMH values and semen analysis were key among them.
• The advertisers said that the testing of AMH levels was accepted Worldwide as an excellent method of measuring a woman’s ovarian reserve and by extension her fertility potential. To date there were 629 articles directly linking AMH to fertility in their title (PubMED search 22.05.17). They said they themselves had published two AMH articles in peer reviewed international fertility journals and were regarded as experts in the field.
• That being said, they pointed out that the AMH value was not taken on its own, but formed part of a diagnosis that looked at both female age and reproductive history. Additionally, the male partner was comprehensively assessed using a standard fresh semen analysis. Given that male infertility accounted for approximately 40% of all infertility in couples, the two tests together had a powerful prognostic value and backed up strongly the claims made by them in their advertising campaign.
• The advertisers said they introduced this test to Ireland in 2009 and as it was initially a manual technique it did have some reproducibility issues. For the past 2.5 years, however, they said an automated platform performed this test and this method was now used exclusively by all centres where the test is performed.
• The results of the AMH test (if outside the normal range) were sensitively communicated by their trained Consultant and Nursing Staff taking into account the individual/couple case history.
• They encouraged patients that had a result out of the normal range to attend for a one to one consultation with their doctor where the relevance of the results were explained in detail.
The Complaints Committee considered the details of the complaint and the advertisers’ response. The Committee acknowledged that infertility was a sensitive topic for many people.
Issue 1 – Radio Advertising
The Committee considered the statement “If there is a problem … we will find it” to be an absolute claim for which substantiation had not been provided.
The Committee considered the radio advertisement to be in breach of Sections 4.1, 4.4, 4.9 and 4.10 of the Code.
Issue 2 – Internet Advertising
The Committee considered the statement “This involves for the woman a simple AMH blood test that will accurately predict how fertile you are...” to be an absolute claim. As the AMH value was not taken on its own but formed part of a diagnosis, the Committee considered the claim was likely to mislead and was in breach of Sections 4.1, 4.4, 4.9 and 4.10 of the Code.
The advertising should not be used in its current format.