The New York Times published an editorial today suggesting several ideas to reduce the kidney shortage. The need is clear: the annual number of kidney transplants performed each year in the US is actually falling, despite an increasing need. Only 16,896 transplants were performed last year, a rate that is the same as in 2007 despite an increase in the numbers of patients with kidney failure. There are currently 101,000 patients waiting for a kidney transplant, average wait time is now 5 years and 4,000 people die each year before getting a transplant.
The most important solution is to increase the number of patients willing to donate and a strong national campaign is urgently. Other problems need to be addressed as well, like cutting the wasted 1,000 kidneys per year that aren't matched to a recipient quickly enough and must be discarded. The failure of medicare to pay for antirejection drugs is perverse, since it causes low income recipients to lose their grafts due to inability to buy these critical drugs. Yet medicare readily pays for them to go back on dialysis, which is about 2-3 times more costly than paying for transplant care over the long term.