Dr. Larry Melton Testifies in Support of Immuno Drug Coverage Legislation

Friday, June 28, 2013

American Society of Transplantation Board Member Provides Expert Testimony to
House Energy & Commerce Committee in Support of Key Immunosuppressive
Drug Coverage Legislation

Dr. Larry Melton of Baylor University Medical Center offers insight to Congress as it examines reforms to improve the Medicare Part B Drug Program

WASHINGTON, DC, June 28, 2013 - The American Society of Transplantation (AST), an international organization of transplant professionals dedicated to advancing the field of transplantation, today announced that AST Board Member Dr. Larry Melton has offered key testimony before Congress in support of H.R. 1428, the Comprehensive Immunosuppressive Drug Coverage for Kidney Transplant Patients Act.

Dr. Melton, medical director of Kidney/Pancreas Transplantation at Baylor Medical Center, was asked by physician congressman Michael Burgess (R-TX) to testify before the House Energy & Commerce Committee as part of a hearing entitled, “Examining Reforms to Improve the Medicare Part B Drug Program for Seniors.” Both Congressman Burgess and Dr. Melton provided insight to the committee that one of the biggest challenges facing the transplant patient community as part of Medicare Part B Drug Program is the arbitrary 36-month limit for immunosuppressive medications. Burgess and Melton urged the committee to support and pass coverage expansion legislation this year.

“Organ transplant recipients must take immunosuppressive medications for the lifetime of their transplanted organ, and if those medications are discontinued, rejection and loss of the transplanted organ are almost certain to occur,” said Dr. Melton. “Under its current policy, Medicare continues to waste the federal government’s investment in kidney transplantation while at the same time paying indefinitely for more costly therapies. It is the equivalent of the federal government buying a new car, providing enough gas to drive around the block and then abandoning the vehicle.”

When kidneys fail, patients only have two treatment options: dialysis or transplantation. A recent survey conducted by the AST published in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology (CJASN) found that 70 percent of U.S. kidney-transplantation programs reported that their patients had an "extremely serious" or "very serious" problem paying for immunosuppressive medications, and 68 percent reported deaths and graft losses attributable to cost-related non-adherence. Since 1972, Medicare has covered patients with End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) – permanent kidney failure requiring dialysis or a kidney transplant – without regard to age or SSDI status. There is no Medicare coverage limit for a dialysis patient and by contrast, kidney transplant recipients lose Medicare coverage 36 months after transplant. In 1972, it was estimated that the ESRD program would cost $250 million. Today, the program costs in excess of $25 billion.

“It is not sound public policy or cost effective for Medicare to cover the initial costs of a kidney transplant and then stop immunosuppressive drug coverage after 36 months,” continued Melton. “On behalf of kidney patients, families, physicians, surgeons and all involved in the transplant process, I ask that this Committee make the 113th Session of Congress the last Congress in which many patients will lose Medicare coverage and jeopardize their kidney transplant. The Burgess-Kind legilation, H.R.  1428, simply corrects a costly policy inequity and covers transplant anti-rejection medications - a specific fix that not only benefits all those involved, it's just common sense."

The AST, Congressmen Michael Burgess, MD (R-TX) and Ron Kind (D-WI) have long led bi-partisan efforts to secure passage of the Comprehensive Immunosuppressive Drug Coverage for Kidney Transplant Patients Act. All those interested in lending their support to this vital legislation are encouraged to contact their local Congressperson by visiting: http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/.

All testimony took place on Friday, June 28 at 10:00 a.m. in 2123 Rayburn House Office Building as part of the Subcommittee on Health hearing, “Examining Reforms to Improve the Medicare Part B Drug Program for Seniors.” Full coverage can be seen on: http://energycommerce.house.gov/hearings.

About the American Society of Transplantation (AST)
The American Society of Transplantation (AST) is an organization of transplant professionals who are dedicated to advancing the field of transplantation and improving patient care by promoting research, education, advocacy, and organ donation. The Society comprises more than 3,100 transplant physicians, surgeons, scientists and allied health professionals. For more information about the Society, go to www.myast.org

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Please read Dr. Melton's testimony here.