BOSTON (CBS) – For families who want a baby, there are few avenues they won’t turn to. In some cases, the I-Team found, that includes black market fertility drugs.
Buying and selling prescription medications online is illegal. However, I-Team reporter Lauren Leamanczyk easily found people willing to ship them to her on a number of websites.
“I think for the people that self pay, that are paying out of pocket, it’s more common than we think,” says Dr. Brian Berger of Boston IVF in Quincy.
Though Massachusetts law requires insurers to cover some fertility treatment, many insurance companies do set limits on how old a woman can be to receive the benefit.
Nicole was nearly 44 when she turned to Dr. Berger for help having a baby.
“We just knew we wanted to have a family and this was our only option,” she said.
She and her husband were prepared for the emotional toll but the financial burden was a surprise.
Her insurance does not cover the treatment for a woman her age.
“Extremely disappointing, shocking. It’s a big choice and then when you take paying out of pocket into consideration, it just makes it all that much more difficult,” she said.
For families going through in vitro fertilization, fertility drugs can cost as much as ten thousand dollars on top of the already hefty cost for the treatment.
“If you need to get medications and you can’t afford it, people are going to try to get it in other ways. Some of those ways may be getting it off the street so to speak,” Dr. Berger explained.
The Internet is full of women buying, selling, and trading fertility drugs. It is an illegal and potentially dangerous market.
On sites like freegaragesale.com and Craigslist, the I-Team easily found people willing to ship us IVF drugs often for half the price. Many said the medication was left over from a previous cycle or the result of a cancelled treatment. Others did not say how they came into possession of the medicine.
In New Hampshire, we met a woman selling left over medication for a relative. The drugs, which should be refrigerated, had not been.
In the Boston area, a woman who had her IVF paid for through insurance wanted hundreds of dollars for her leftover meds.
“Number one it is illegal and number two I don’t know what the nature of the medications she is getting truly are,” Berger said.
Dr. Berger warns improperly stored or expired medicine can reduce the procedure’s effectiveness.
Plus, there’s the risk of tampering or mislabeling.
“They could be actually injecting themselves with something that’s not the medication or that is the medication mixed with something that’s not safe,” he warned.
It’s what ultimately convinced Nicole to seek other discounts such as those for military veterans.
“It’s extremely tempting, but then again, I think you get what you pay for,” she said.
She wants a baby and she doesn’t want anything, including faulty medication, to jeopardize that.
“The money that you’re paying for the process could all be wasted if the drugs aren’t exactly what you think they are.”
Prosecution is extremely rare for those buying and selling fertility drugs illegally. Doctors say there are some legal discount programs for couples who cannot afford fertility medicine.