Trump directs US govt to revamp care for kidney disease

WASHINGTON (AP) – United States (US) President Donald Trump is directing the government to revamp the nation’s care for kidney disease, so that more people whose kidneys fail have a chance at early transplants and home dialysis – along with better prevention so patients don’t get that sick to begin with.

Senior administration officials told The Associated Press that Trump signed an executive order yesterday calling for strategies that have the potential to save lives and millions of Medicare dollars.

That won’t happen overnight – some of the initiatives will require new government regulations.

And because a severe organ shortage complicates the call for more transplants, the administration also aims to ease financial hardships for living donors, said the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Another key change: steps to help the groups that collect deceased donations do a better job. Officials cited a study that suggests long term it may be possible to find 17,000 more kidneys and 11,000 other organs from deceased donors for transplant every year.

Federal health officials have made clear for months that they intend to shake up a system that today favours expensive, time-consuming dialysis in large centres over easier-to-tolerate at-home care or transplants that help patients live longer.

“Right now every financial incentive is toward dialysis and not toward transplantation and long-term survivorship,” Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, whose father experienced traditional and at-home dialysis before getting a living donor transplant, told a Senate hearing in March. “And you get what you pay for.”

About 30 million American adults have chronic kidney disease, costing Medicare a staggering USD113 billion.

Careful treatment – including control of diabetes and high blood pressure, the two main culprits – can help prevent further kidney deterioration. But more than 700,000 people have end-stage renal disease, meaning their kidneys have failed, and require either a transplant or dialysis to survive. Only about a third received specialised kidney care before they got so sick.

More than 94,000 of the 113,000 people on the national organ waiting list need a kidney. Last year, there were 21,167 kidney transplants. A fraction – 6,442 – were from living donors, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing, which oversees the nation’s transplant system.

“The longer you’re on dialysis, the outcomes are worse,” said transplant surgeon at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Dr Amit Tevar, who praised the Trump administration initiatives being announced yesterday.

Too often, transplant centres don’t see a kidney patient until they’ve been on dialysis for years, he said. And while any transplant is preferable, one from a living donor is best because those organs “work better, longer and faster,” Tevar said.