©2018 Kidney Care Partners
Published by The Hill
Written by Dr. Frank Maddux
Recent news surrounding the nation’s growing opioid epidemic has demonstrated how an all-hands-on-deck approach is needed when a serious national health crisis threatens the lives of Americans. The Trump administration declared opioid abuse a public health emergency, and lawmakers have enacted legislation to expand treatment and prevention programs, as well as prosecute individuals who commit opioid-related health care fraud.
It’s a clear example of how – working together – we can tackle deadly and little understood issues facing public health in America.
But even less acknowledged than the national opioid crisis is a deadly disorder affecting more than 30 million Americans: kidney disease. It’s a health emergency that begs for an integrated, united approach if we can ever expect to contain the human and economic damage it brings.
Approximately one in nine Americans suffers from some form of kidney disease, caused by genetics as well as two frighteningly common culprits: diabetes and high blood pressure. Whatever the cause, too often, the end result is kidney failure (also called End Stage Renal Disease, or “ESRD”), which affects more than 660,000 Americans, most of whom depend upon the nation’s Medicare ESRD benefit for their kidney care.
Kidney disease and failure are burdens that are robbing Americans of their lives – and quality of life. And they are an increasing drain on Medicare’s resources each year, as more than 118,000 newly diagnosed Americans begin costly dialysis care – and thousands more experience expensive hospitalizations and complications. Yet, despite all that we know about its toll and its economic repercussions, kidney disease remains an area woefully lacking coordination among government agencies and research funding.
Fortunately, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has recently taken a critical step that will hopefully increase kidney disease research and therapy integration to the level it needs to be. The Kidney Innovation Accelerator recently announced by HHS is a public-private innovation fund that will seed, incentivize and accelerate breakthroughs in kidney care. Perhaps most importantly, it will establish better coordination among HHS, NIH, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services to break down barriers to innovation. This investment is absolutely essential – and long overdue – if we want to save lives and find breakthroughs that can delay or avoid the onset of complete kidney failure.
HHS’ Kidney Innovation Accelerator has received wide praise from the larger kidney community. In fact, it provides important momentum on a concept that the community has long supported.
Kidney Care Partners (KCP) has identified and advocated a need for greater research and coordination for more than a decade. As a coalition of patient advocates, kidney disease professionals, dialysis care providers, and manufacturers, our work has always been dedicated to ensuring optimal research, care and outcomes for the nation’s kidney patients.
It’s certainly an exciting time to see KCP’s efforts and HHS’ initiative dovetail in what could result in a more positive future for patients. We’re optimistic that Congress could also hasten progress by passing the Chronic Kidney Disease Improvement in Research and Treatment Act of 2017.
That legislation – S. 1890 and H.R. 2644 – would improve understanding of chronic kidney disease (CKD) through expanded research and coordination, and expand current research in several notable ways.
First, it would require HHS to conduct a study to improve organ donation rates and reduce barriers to receiving a kidney transplant. Further, the bill would require the National Academies of Sciences to examine how care can be improved through the introduction of new innovative technologies.
Last, it would require the secretary to conduct a study to better understand the progression of kidney disease and treatment of kidney failure in minority populations.
National health emergencies call for swift and deliberate action, and it’s time we ramp up our collective efforts to address kidney disease. It’s a fight we can win, if we put the muscle of public-private partnerships and resources behind it.