Organ Transplantation: Myth and Reality

There is a belief that transplanted organs save lives: they can.  But can you afford it?  Maybe, maybe not.  If you are well insured you might.  If you are not, maybe you should start wrapping up your affairs.  We hear a lot about government death panels but as with most things the devil is in the details.  I think the truth is breaking in the news now.

If you have end-stage heart, kidney, liver, lung disease, the front-end cost is the cost of the surgery.  The ongoing cost is the cost of the medications to keep you from rejecting the grafted organ.  These costs can amount to several thousands of dollars per month.

If you are lucky enough to have kidney disease Medicare will pay for your medications for three years.  If not, you may be rejected because no one wants to transplant an organ into someone who can’t afford the medications.  There may be cover reasons for keeping you from being listed: compliance issues, personality issues, or support system issues but the reason is the cost of the medications.  What do you do after your three years of Medicare medication support is up?

You may have to go back on dialysis. Providing anti-rejection drugs might cost $100 million/year but dialysis costs $8.2 billion/year. On the surface it looks like a no brainer – provide the meds and save $8.1 billion/year.  Except that Amgen, maker of Epogen (a wonderful drug used in dialysis) adds $2 billion/year to Amgen’s coffers and may be a reason that Amgen spent $10.2 million (second only to Pfizer) in 2010.  Amgen certainly understands the subtleties of market forces.

If you have a different type of organ transplant, well Amgen is off the hook.  So, why does Medicare just support kidney transplants?  I imagine many people are asking the same question and imagine the answer is shrouded in the mists of a political smoke-filled room of yesteryear.  I think the air should be cleared and applaud the VenturaStar, John Gonzales ( and Tom Kisken (


About carlos

I'm a curious person, of reasonable intellect, "on the beach" (retired) and enjoying my interest in anthropology, language, civil rights, and a few other areas. I've been a hippie/student/aerospace tech writer in the '60s, a witness to the Portuguese revolution in the ‘70s, a defense test engineer and witness to the Guatemalan genocide in the '80s, and a network engineer for an ISP in the '90s. Now I’m a student and commentator until my time is up. I've spent time under the spell of the Mesoamerican pyramids and the sweet sound of the Portuguese language. I've lived in Europe, traveled in Brazil, Central America, Iceland, New Zealand, and other places. My preferred mode of travel is with a backpack and I eat (almost) anything local. Somehow, many of the countries I have been to have had civil unrest (for which I was not responsible). I'm open to correspond with anyone who might share my liberal, humanist interests. I live in San Buenaventura, California.
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