FTC Charges Springfield, Mass., Infertility Clinic
with Making False and Unsubstantiated Claims

Consent Agreement Settles Charges

FTC News Release
October 15, 1990

The Federal Trade Commission has charged Fertility Institute of Western Massachusetts ("Fertility Institute") and its owner, Dr Ronald K. Burke, with making false and unsubstantiated claims regarding success rates of its infertility treatments and with making unsubstantiated claims in promoting its services. Under a consent agreement announced today for public comment, Fertility Institute and Dr Burke have agreed not to make misrepresentations about their infertility services in the future.

In a complaint accompanying the consent agreement, the FTC charges that Fertility Institute made false and unsubstantiated claims in its promotional brochure "Understanding Your Fertility." According to the complaint, Fertility Institute has exaggerated the success rate of its patients undergoing treatment known as "Gamete Intra-fallopian Transfer" ("GIFT"). In its brochure, Fertility Institute claimed, "As of 1988, the success rate for GIFT procedures performed by the Fertility Institute was 35%." The complaint says Fertility Institute's success rate for GIFT was not 35%.

In addition, the complaint contends, Fertility Institute made unsubstantiated representations concerning the success rates and costs of other infertility treatments and claimed falsely to have a reasonable basis for these representations.

The complaint alleges that Fertility Institute's brochure makes it appear that the GIFT procedure is far more "successful" than in vitro fertilization (IVF) — a procedure the Institute does not offer. Fertility Institute also claimed that the success rate for in vitro fertilization is less than 20 percent and requires a commitment of at least six treatment cycles at a cost of between $30,000 and $50,000. The FTC's complaint says Fertility Institute was not able to substantiate the claimed IVF success rates, nor was it able to substantiate the high cost purportedly associated with this procedure.

Finally, the complaint challenges, Fertility Institute failed to have substantiation for the claim that, "With proper care, 80 to 90 percent of infertile couples can be helped." Fertility Institute failed to show that 80 to 90 percent of its patients were "helped" in the sense that they achieved pregnancy.

The proposed order would prohibit Fertility Institute and Dr Burke from misrepresenting the number or percentage of patients who achieve success in overcoming infertility, including the number or percentage of patients who give birth or achieve pregnancy; the success rate of any infertility procedure, without "competent and reliable" scientific evidence to substantiate the claims; or the cost or expense of any infertility test or procedure. The order further prohibits Fertility Institute and Dr Burke from misrepresenting their qualifications or ability to provide infertility treatments, and any beneficial or therapeutic aspects of any test or procedure relating to the treatment of infertility.

Fertility Institute is based in Springfield, MA.

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