US transplant system needs an overhaul, advisory panel says

While a record-breaking 41,354 organ transplants were performed in the U.S. last year, the nation's current organ transplantation system is inequitable, and more can be done to boost that number, according to a report published Feb. 25 from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. 

"Despite the many successes of organ procurement and transplantation in the United States, the components of the system suffer from significant variations in performance, creating an inefficient and inequitable system," the panel's report said. "An individual's chance of being referred varies greatly based on race and ethnicity, gender, geographic location, socioeconomic status, disability status and immigration status." 

As of Feb. 3, 106,616 people were awaiting transplants, at least 17 of whom die each day waiting. 

Among one of the main issues the panel pointed to was underuse of procured organs. For example, the proportion of kidneys recovered from deceased donors for transplant in 2019 but ultimately not transplanted was about 20 percent. The kidney nonuse rate is projected to increase to 23 percent this year. 

The panel outlined a number of recommendations to improve the nation's transplant system, including making it easier for transplant centers to accept organ offers, as evidence has suggested many unused organs could successfully be transplanted; having HHS create national performance goals that include reaching at least 50,000 transplants per year; and implementing actions to ease organ transplant disparities, such as having the government begin regulatory oversight when a patient is diagnosed with organ failure rather than when they're placed on the transplant waiting list. 

The committee recommended actions to improve the organ transplantation system be taken in the next three to five years. 

To view the full report, click here.

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