New liver and kidney allocation policies have expanded equitable access to lifesaving organs for patients on the national waitlist, according to data analysis from United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), which serves as the nation’s transplant system under federal contract.
UNOS leadership presented this data for members of Congress during a virtual briefing today.
Changes to the liver allocation policy went into effect in February of 2020 and the kidney allocation policy followed a year later, in March of 2021. Recent monitoring report data show the liver and kidney policies have so far resulted in more transplants overall while also reducing disparities in access based on where a patient is listed.
Liver transplants increased by 3 percent and kidney transplants increased by 16 percent, even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is in keeping with the high performance of the national donation and transplantation system, which marked the eighth year of growth in deceased donor transplants in 2020 despite the ongoing global health crisis.
“These policies expand equitable access to lifesaving organs,” said UNOS CEO Brian Shepard. “We continue to make progress through robust policy development, improving the highest performing organ donation and transplantation system in the world.”
The 15-month liver monitoring report shows that the policy is performing as intended. More organs are going to the sickest patients, especially adults with the most medically-urgent needs, regardless of where they are listed for transplant.
Early monitoring data of the circles-based model for kidney allocation indicate that it has also contributed to broadened equity. A new report containing key measures of the first full two-months of enactment show an increase in kidney transplants for children, ethnic and racial minorities, moderately hard-to-match patients and those with longer dialysis times.
More than 400 donation and transplant professionals, donor family members and patients nationwide helped develop the new policies.
“The results of the new kidney and liver policies are a testament to our community’s ability to unify a diverse membership around the shared goal of saving lives,” said UNOS Board President Matt Cooper, M.D., Director of Pancreas and Kidney Transplantation at MedStar Georgetown Transplant Institute, and professor of surgery at Georgetown University School of Medicine. “Even during a pandemic, we saw a resilient system not only rebound, but formalize, enact, and monitor two effective allocation policies. UNOS is the engine that powers this complex process, and we remain focused on building on our successes while continuing to address ongoing challenges.”
To learn more about UNOS’ policy development process, click here.
About United Network for Organ Sharing
(UNOS) is a non-profit, charitable organization that serves as the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN) under contract with the federal government. The OPTN helps create and define organ allocation and distribution policies that make the best use of donated organs. This process involves continuously evaluating new advances and discoveries so policies can be adapted to best serve patients waiting for transplants. All transplant programs and organ procurement organizations throughout the country are OPTN members and follow the policies the OPTN creates for allocating organs.