New Drugs May Allow Transplants With Hepatitis-Positive Organs

Published: Monday, September 10, 2018 - 12:36pm
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When a patient is told they need a kidney transplant, the clock starts ticking. Can that patient stay healthy long enough to be a candidate for an organ when one becomes available?

Dr. Alfredo Fabrega, medical director for the Kidney and Pancreas Transplant Programs at Banner University Medical Center Phoenix, said the process really is a waiting game. The average time to get a kidney in Arizona is five years — in California, it’s 12 years. That’s a long time to go through dialysis — a procedure that takes four hours a day, three times a week.

Meanwhile, with the opioid epidemic raging, a population of younger patients are dying and leaving behind healthy organs, which, increasingly, are infected with hepatitis C. Those organs used to be discarded.

But now, Dr. Fabrega said, new drugs are permitting hepatitis C-negative patients to receive organs from hepatitis C-positive donors.

Dr. Fabrega says Banner has done seven of these transplants already, and they are planning to expand the program further.

In fact, this medical breakthrough is taking place across the country as doctors are studying ways to address the tragic supply and demand problem.

The Show talked to Dr. Niraj Desai, assistant professor of surgery at Johns Hopkins University about their own hepatitis C organ transplant study.

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