When many think of organ transplants in the developing world, selling kidneys for money and the black market organ trade often come to mind. The APKD has proposed a new approach: one that looks at people—people who are suffering from kidney failure, need a kidney transplant and have a willing donor, but lack the financial resources to pay for the transplant and follow-up care.
The Global Kidney Exchange Program, created by the APKD, helps people in both the developing world and at home in the U.S. The program focuses on two goals: relieving the financial burden for kidney patients and the healthcare system; and creating transplant chains that serve both international and American donor/recipient pairs.
Building Chains of Hope
Underserved, international patients who have one or more willing donors, but cannot afford a transplant, cross borders to exchange donors with American incompatible pairs.
By exporting first world healthcare to patients in the emerging world, we can help reverse the practice of transplant tourism and shed light and transparency on the black market organ trade. The Global Kidney Exchange Program acknowledges that a kidney has financial value, while simultaneously protecting the fact that kidney paired donation is an altruistic gift, not a commercial exchange.
Creating Chains that Save
The first successful kidney transplant using the Global Kidney Exchange Program connected Jose Mamaril of the Philippines, who had end stage renal disease but not the means to pay for a transplant or regular dialysis, with an American donor. His wife, Kristine, donated her kidney as part of the exchange. This created a donor chain that ultimately benefited eight people with kidney failure, through the help of transplant surgeons in Ohio, Minnesota, Virginia, Seattle and Georgia.
Realizing the Impact
The Global Kidney Exchange Program is making a difference by addressing challenges that both the U.S. and the world are facing. There are enough donor/recipient pairs in developing countries to allow five Americans who have incompatible donors to receive kidneys through paired exchanges. By covering the procedure for one donor and recipient from an emerging nation, it would not only help Medicare save five American lives, but also $1 million in medical costs over five years.
Healthcare reform in the U.S. aims to achieve three pillars: reduced costs, improved quality and increased access. The Global Kidney Exchange Program is one of the few strategies in U.S. healthcare to achieve all three simultaneously.
As we continue to seek donors, patients and partners to bring this vision to life, results have proven that not only will living kidney donor transplantations increase, but the cost of care for American health insurance providers will be reduced.