New Legislation Extends Medicare Coverage for Immunosuppressive Drugs for Kidney Transplants

Jennifer Nessel, Assistant Editor

The Comprehensive Immunosuppressive Drug Coverage for Kidney Transplant Patients Act of 2019 extends Medicare coverage of immunosuppressive drugs for kidney transplant recipients.

New legislation released this week has extended Medicare coverage of immunosuppressive drugs for kidney transplants past the 36-month cut-off currently in place to cover the medications for the life of the transplant.

The Comprehensive Immunosuppressive Drug Coverage for Kidney Transplant Patients Act of 2019 (HR 5534) was introduced in the US Senate by Sens Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and Dick Durbin (D-IL); and in the House of Representatives by Reps Ron Kind (D-WI) and Michael Burgess (R-TX).1

“The American Society of Transplantation (AST), representing a majority of the nation’s medical professionals in the field of organ transplantation, has been advocating for this change for over a decade and strongly supports this legislation. AST and transplant community are grateful for our House champions’ longtime support of transplant recipient, donors, and their families,” noted a statement by the AST.1

Transplant recipients are required to take immunosuppressive medications for the life of their transplanted organ to prevent rejection. Currently, Medicare covers these medications for just 36 months after the transplant and many recipients are unable to afford their medications after the 36-month limit. This often leads to the unnecessary failure of the transplanted kidney, which can result in another transplant or dialysis.2

"When a patient receives a kidney transplant, the body knows that the new kidney is foreign and will attack the new kidney and try to damage or destroy it. Taking life-saving immunosuppressive drugs suppresses the body's ability to do this and helps prevent organ rejection. Skipping even one dose may increase the chance of organ failure," the National Kidney Foundation said in a press release.1

The Comprehensive Immunosuppressive Drug Coverage for Kidney Transplant Patients Act of 2019 extends Medicare coverage of immunosuppressive drugs for kidney transplant recipients.1

In a report published in the Journal of American Society of Nephrology, Matthew Kadatz, MD, indicates that extending coverage through the duration of the transplanted organ will lead to better transplant recipient health outcomes and cost savings to the Medicare program. The report also shows that the average cost of a year of dialysis therapy is more than 30 times the cost of a year’s supply of the most commonly used immunosuppression medications prescribed to prevent kidney rejection.2,3

"The National Kidney Foundation applauds the new H.R. 5534 and sincerely thanks Senators Cassidy and Durbin and Congressmen Kind and Burgess for standing up for kidney transplant patients and we look forward to working with them to advance this life-saving legislation,” the National Kidney Foundation said in a prepared statement.1

References

  • National Kidney Foundation Applauds New Immunosuppressive Drug Coverage Legislation to Help Save Transplant Patients from Organ Rejection [press release]. PR Newswire. Published January 6, 2020. https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/national-kidney-foundation-applauds-new-immunosuppressive-drug-coverage-legislation-to-help-save-transplant-patients-from-organ-rejection-300981658.html. Accessed January 6, 2020.
  • Kidney Recipients May Get Much Needed Help -Immunosuppressive Drug Coverage for Kidney Transplant Patients Act of 2019 Introduced In U.S. House of Representatives [press release]. PR Newswire. Published January 6, 2020. https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/kidney-recipients-may-get-much-needed-help--immunosuppressive-drug-coverage-for-kidney-transplant-patients-act-of-2019-introduced-in-us-house-of-representatives-300981643.html. Accessed January 6, 2020.
  • Kadatz M, Gill J, Formica R, et al. Economic Evaluation of Extending Medicare Immunosuppressive Drug Coverage for Kidney Transplant Recipients in the Current Era. JASN January 2020, 31 (1) 218-228; DOI: https://doi.org/10.1681/ASN.2019070646. Accessed January 6, 2020.