Forced Back on Dialysis
Kidney transplant recipients forced back on dialysis

About this project

A flawed Medicare policy has contributed to the suffering of American kidney patients for decades. While the federal entitlement program covers a lifetime of costly dialysis treatments, it provides only 36 months of anti-rejection medications that kidney transplant recipients need the rest of their lives. Without the drugs, the kidney fails and recipients return to the dialysis regimen, sometimes waiting years for the next kidney transplant. The counter-intuitive policy keeps patients in a U.S. dialysis system with some of the worst mortality rates in the world, and wastes the precious resource of donated kidneys. It can cost taxpayers millions more in the long run. Yet, attempts by lawmakers to remedy the problem have been defeated by lobbying from a multi-billion dollar dialysis industry that wants to ensure that monies for the transplant drugs do not come from the government's dialysis budget. Among the key lobbyists is dialysis drug maker Amgen of Thousand Oaks.

Findings

  • Immediately after publication of this story, Sen. Richard Durbin of Illinois introduced legislation that would increase federal support for anti-rejection drugs. No action has yet been taken on his proposal.
  • This project won an honorable mention award from the Association of Health Care Journalists for 2011.

Stories

Medicare limits anti-rejection drugs

The tan and white capsules that allow 19-year-old Matthew Kinney to live a normal life with a transplanted kidney lay on his kitchen table in a paltry cluster.

Safety of Epogen dosages questioned

Ventura County's largest private employer built its empire on a miracle: a drug that reduced the need for blood transfusions among legions of American dialysis patients and their suffering counterparts worldwide.

Where to turn for help

Medicare: 1-800-633-4227 Medi-Cal: 1-888-301-1228 Renal Support Network: 1-800-579-1970; or for Spanish, call 1-800-780-4238

16 surgeries later, transplant within reach

In a room at Los Robles Hospital & Medical Center, Sheryl Glatt lay with 40 surgical staples climbing her withered thigh, and a lower leg undergoing a battery of attempts to save it from amputation.

Thousand Oaks woman gained miracle kidney, funding restrictions helped take it away

An hour before sunrise, Jeannette Castaneda unfurled a bed sheet over a reclining chair to keep pale green vinyl from clinging to her arms. She huddled under a blanket as a technician jabbed her with a needle, leashing her to the machine that does...

Woman featured in kidney story dies

Sheryl Glatt, a kidney disease patient whose moving story was featured in a Ventura County Star special series over the summer, died on Dec. 18 after doctors tried to prevent her second amputation in five months. Glatt, 51, of Simi Valley had...

Blog Posts

To Know Sheryl Glatt and Kidney Disease

I didn’t know Sheryl when she wasn’t sick. I didn’t know her as a preschool teacher, a mother, a churchgoer or dialysis support group leader. Every time I saw her, she was in a hospital bed, tethered to a dialysis machine or in a wheelchair en route...

Editorial Posts

Editorial: Wasting taxpayer dollars, ruining lives

The situation is illogical, shocking and infuriating — but somehow, it's not totally surprising in the world of health care.

Authors

John Gonzales

Senior writer John Gonzales specializes in the demographics of health policy. He was most recently based in New Orleans as Southern Regional Correspondent for the Associated Press. He covered efforts to rebuild from Hurricane Katrina, as well as immigration and the shifting demographics of The South. Gonzales previously was Hispanic Affairs reporter at Newsday -- a beat that took him from New York's emerging Mexican neighborhoods, to the U.S. border region, to rural Mexican towns. His "Texas Smuggling" articles won the National Association of Hispanic Journalists best breaking news award in 2004. He was also awarded The Freedom Forum’s North American Journalist Exchange fellowship in 2001. Gonzales spent the early part of his 15-year journalism career on the staffs of The Daily Breeze and the Gardena Valley News. He is a USC Annenberg graduate, with honors, and a dual major in political science. He is also a Spanish speaker and graduate of the Los Angeles Times Minority Editorial Training Program, or METPro. 

Lauren M. Whaley

Multimedia journalist Lauren M. Whaley is the president of the national Journalism and Women Symposium (JAWS). For the Center and its partners, she produces videos, radio stories, photographs and other...

Project Partners

© 2014 California Healthcare Foundation Center for Health Reporting

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