Co-Sponsors for Transplant Bill Reach Majority in House

New York, NY
October 12, 1999

A bill that would extend Medicare coverage of immunosuppressive drugs taken daily by transplant recipients now has 250 co-sponsors, the National Kidney Foundation (NKF) announced today. Grass roots advocacy efforts put forth by NKF members, patients and families across the country have generated the groundswell of support for this bill. Together they have made dozens of visits to Congressional Representatives and staff in their home districts, written hundreds of letters and made countless phone calls.

The Immunosuppressive Drug Coverage Act, HR1115, was introduced into the 106th Congress by Rep. Charles Canady (R-FL) last March. S631, a similar bill introduced in the Senate by Sen. Mike DeWine (R-OH), already has 21 co-sponsors.

"We would not be nearly this far along if it weren't for the tireless efforts of the National Kidney Foundation, which has been a driving force in promoting this bill," says Rep. Canady. "Only a small fraction of bills introduced in The House ever get majority sponsorship. The breadth of support we have received is very gratifying."

Currently, Medicare covers the cost of immunosuppressive medications, which help prevent organ rejection, for the first three years after a transplant. After that, patients must pay for the drugs themselves unless they are fortunate enough to have private medical insurance that provides such coverage. For kidney transplant recipients, for example, the drugs cost an average of $11,000 a year. The Immunosuppressive Drug Coverage Act would eliminate the time limitation on Medicare coverage.

According to the National Kidney Foundation, transplantation is the treatment of choice for many patients with irreversible kidney failure who are freed from the burden of dialysis. However, patients may lose their transplants if they cannot afford the medication that must be taken daily for life. The result for kidney patients may be a return to dialysis or, in the case of heart, liver or lung recipients, the need for a second transplant or possibly death if a new organ does not become available in time.

"This is very encouraging news to tens of thousands of transplant recipients," says NKF Chairman Joseph L. Brand. "We're grateful to our volunteers who have worked so hard on this issue, as well as to the dozens of transplant organizations who lent their support as part of our ad hoc coalition."

The National Kidney Foundation is dedicated to preventing and treating kidney and urinary tract disease, improving the health and well-being of individuals and families affected by these diseases and increasing the availability of all organs for transplantation.

For more information visit the NKF Office of Scientific and Public Policy section of our site.