Many turning to black market for fertility drugs despite risks

FILE - Pregnant woman and her doctor (KXAN File Photo)
FILE - Pregnant woman and her doctor (KXAN File Photo)

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — For some couples desperately trying to have a baby, there is almost nothing they wouldn’t try. That includes buying fertility medications found on the black market.

Kim Sneeder wants to be a mom more than anything, so she’s trying in vitro fertilization and the cocktail of medications it comes with.

“It’s an emotional experience,” Sneeder told 8News Investigative Reporter Kerri O’Brien. “Medically your putting your body through a lot.There are tons of medications that you are going through, pills and shots, and some of your shots have to be refrigerated.”

It’s no secret IVF is expensive, averaging $10,000 to $14,000 dollars and the medications that go with it can tack on up to an extra $10,000 a cycle.

“I think that was one of biggest surprises when I got the pharmaceutical bill,” says Sneeder.

8News has uncovered the high cost of IVF is prompting couples to buy and sell infertility drugs in a robust resale market online. Although it’s illegal, we found dozens of posts in several online message boards offering a black market pharmacy of infertility drugs at a fraction of the cost.

“I actually had some leftovers, so I was trying to sell it so I can buy some other meds I needed,’” explained one woman who admitted to buying and selling IVF medications online.

“I was actually was able to sell my meds and I am still in contact, where we have been rooting each other on through text message,” said the woman, who we are not identifying.

She says she knows it’s risky.

“It is probably the hardest thing I have ever had to do in my life,” she said.

She doesn’t really know who’s she’s buying from, how the drugs are stored or if it’s even the real thing. But she says she had no other option.

“The meds themselves are $2,000 to $3,000 dollars per cycle,” she explained. “There’s no insurance coverage for any of it.”

Another online seller told us he and his wife were lucky enough to have some insurance coverage.

“The insurance pay for the medication, but not the IVF process,” he told 8News.

After their first attempt didn’t work, he’s now desperate to sell his wife’s surplus fertility drugs to pay for their next cycle.

“So it’s going to be like $10,000 totally,” he tells 8News.

We showed Sneeder’s IVF doctor, HCA Dr. Anish Shah with rhe Richmond Center for Fertility, what we found. He says this online community of drug selling and sharing is dangerous.

“It’s a terrible idea, there are many complications that come about from these medications,” he said.

Complications can include blood clots, fluid in the lungs and even death. Dr. Shah also warns that expired medication or improperly stored medications can reduce effectiveness.

“Our nurse will sit down and actually spend half an hour teaching them how to properly administer and store the medications,” Dr. Shah explained.

“Having Dr. Shah constantly at my disposal, I can’t imagine not having that. It all showed up and it was like a science experiment in my living room, ” Sneeder said.

Plus, Dr. Shah says there’s the risk of tampering or mislabeling.

“You might be spending money on something that is not real, not to mention illegal,” he said.

Since 8News first spoke to the female seller, she has informed us she is pregnant. Prosecution is extremely rare for buying or selling these infertility drugs illegally. But doctors tell us there are legal discount programs for couples and most doctors will try to work with patients to keep costs down.

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