Doctors perform first transplant between HIV-positive patients — Daily Rise: Thursday, March 31

HIV Transplant

For the first time in history, doctors have performed an organ transplant between an HIV-positive donor and HIV-positive recipient.

“It’s a long-awaited new option for patients with the virus whose kidneys or livers are failing,” reports CBS News. “Johns Hopkins Medicine announced Wednesday that both recipients are recovering well after one received a kidney and the other a liver from a deceased HIV-positive donor — organs that ordinarily would have been thrown away because of the HIV infection.”

This new treatment is expected to result in as many 1,000 transplants every year. While we celebrate the historic moment in medical advancement, it’s worth remembering why it’s taken so long: Government regulations. For years, the procedure was banned by federal law.

“HIV was the only condition absolutely banned in the National Organ Transplant Act passed in 1984, when the AIDS epidemic was new and the virus was almost invariably fatal, not the treatable chronic disease it is now,” the Baltimore Sun notes.

Regulations should never obstruct patients from obtaining potentially life-saving treatments, because, in the words of Hopkins transplant specialist Dr. Dorry Segev, “This could mean a new chance at life.”

Computer Glitch

Technology is helping transform the lives of patients by reducing costs and improving access to better treatments. But, it’s also a double-edged sword.

The Courier Journal’s Deborah Yetter reports on a computer system problem, which has caused patients in Kentucky to lose their health coverage.

“People seeking help must wait hours or days, repeatedly calling a state helpline only to get a recorded message that advises them to try later and then hangs up, the advocates said,” the Courier Journal reports. “Others visit overcrowded state benefit offices where they must wait for hours – sometimes the entire day – to get help, they said.”

“It’s really frustrating,” a Louisville mother of three who lost Medicaid coverage told the Courier Journal.

Technology alone isn’t a cure-all. We need health care providers to make security and reliability a top priority for all new technologies. Poorly implemented technologies fail patients and jeopardize public health.

Sicker Than Expected

Uninsured Americans were sicker than expected. That’s the conclusion of a new report published by Blue Cross Blue Shield.

“People who enrolled in individual health insurance plans after 2014 were less healthy and used more healthcare in 2014 and 2015 than those who were already enrolled in individual plans and those who receive insurance through their employers,” notes Morning Consult’s Caitlin Owens.

Although the report only included data from BCBS plans, those represent the largest participant group in the exchanges.

“What we thought and we had envisioned is the cost of the newly enrolled would end up approaching that of the [employer-insured] group market, but we’re seeing in the data we have today it is actually about 20 percent higher than in the group market,” said Alissa Fox, senior vice president for policy and representation at BCBSA, in an interview with Morning Consult. “I think that’s really something that surprised us.”

FDA Approval Alert

Patients with kidney or lung abnormalities as the result of hepatic veno-occlusive disease have a new treatment option. This week, the Food and Drug Administration approved Defitelio as a treatment available to adults and children.

“This is the first FDA-approved therapy for treatment of severe hepatic VOD, a rare and life-threatening liver condition,” the FDA stated in a press release announcing the approval. “Fewer than 2 percent of patients develop severe hepatic VOD after HSCT, but as many as 80 percent of patients who develop severe hepatic VOD do not survive.”

“The approval of Defitelio fills a significant need in the transplantation community to treat this rare but frequently fatal complication in patients who receive chemotherapy and HSCT,” said Richard Pazdur, M.D., director of the Office of Hematology and Oncology Products in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research.

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