Danish sperm bank abandoning home market

Despite the popularity of Danish sperm, a new set of laws may mean that couples have to travel abroad to get semen

Aarhus-based Cryos, the world's largest sperm bank, has announced it will no longer supply Danish fertility clinics after new legislation will require sperm banks to ensure that donors father no more than 12 children conceived in Denmark. The new legislation was designed to prevent inbreeding and the possible spread of disease.

“We cannot ensure that a donor is not used for more than 12 children,” Cryos head Ole Schou told Berlingske newspaper. “It is like asking Lundbeck [a maker of anti-depressants] to ensure that doctors do not over-prescribe medication or Carlsberg to guarantee that young people do not drink too much beer.”

Under the old law, the limit was set at 25 children fathered by a single donor, and the language was less stringent, saying “where possible”, and the law placed the burden on fertility clinics, not the sperm banks.

“Clinics buy sperm in large quantities and keep it frozen for years, and we cannot ensure how often they use it,” said Schou. “Many clinics do not report pregnancies back to us, and there are also individuals who purchase sperm over the internet for home insemination, so it's completely out of our hands.”

The new law limiting the number of children per donor to 12 also applies to foreign couples who come to Denmark to be treated. Karin Erb, head of the Dansk Fertilitetsselskab, which represents fertility clinics, regretted Cryos’s decision but understands why the company took the step.

“They have been put in a nearly impossible position,” Erb told Berlingske. “It is one thing to reduce the number of children fathered by a donor Denmark, but to have it apply to the number of treatments carried out here is something else altogether.”

Erb said that many foreigners come to Denmark for treatment and that it would be impossible for Cryos to monitor how the sperm it supplied was being used.

The Copenhagen-based European Sperm Bank (ESB) was also unhappy with the new regulations and was considering following in Cryos’s footsteps, according Peter Bower, the company's general manager.

Erb said that even if ESB continues to supply Denmark, patients will feel the result of Cryos’s decision.

“Monopolies are always bad,” she said. “It is good for patients when there are several suppliers in the market. I am afraid that Danish couples will now have to go abroad to get semen like they have had to do for a long time to get an egg donation.

Erb said that the new rules have “created a new problem” that could wind up leading to a shortage of donor sperm.

Cryos sells to 70 countries can be purchased from both anonymous and non-anonymous donors. Exports of Danish sperm have long been a commercial success because sperm donors in Denmark  -unlike the rules inmany other countries – can donate sperm anonymously.

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