[Skip to Content]
[Skip to Content Landing]
Policy Perspectives
May 10, 2000

Payment for Immunosuppression After Organ Transplantation

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Department of Medicine, Hennepin County Medical Center, Minneapolis, Minn (Dr Kasiske); Department of Medicine, Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center, New York, NY (Dr Cohen); Division of Gastroenterology, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia (Dr Lucey); and Division of Nephrology, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, Ga (Dr Neylan).


Policy Perspectives Section Editors: Robert J. Blendon, ScD, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Mass; Drummond Rennie, MD, Deputy Editor, JAMA.

JAMA. 2000;283(18):2445-2450. doi:10.1001/jama.283.18.2445

Dramatic improvements in organ transplantation have meant that a growing number of patients must take expensive immunosuppressive medications for the rest of their lives. Currently, Medicare covers most transplantation procedures in the United States, but ends coverage for outpatient immunosuppressive medications after 36 months. Evidence suggests that at least some patients have reduced immunosuppression and their transplants fail because they cannot afford these medication costs. In the years since the advent of effective immunosuppressive therapy, the US Congress has struggled with this issue, and in 1999 temporarily extended medication coverage for eligible patients (based on age and disability) by 8 months. However, a more permanent solution is needed. We advocate that Medicare should cover the cost of all immunosuppressive therapy for all solid organ transplant recipients who cannot afford to pay. A number of potentially cost-effective approaches could be taken, but, in any case, something must be done to ensure that transplants do not fail because recipients cannot pay for immunosuppression.