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Living with a Kidney Transplant and the High Cost of Drugs to Maintain It

When his kidneys failed, Richard Knight got a transplant. But the drugs he has to take for the rest of his life cost him hundreds of dollars every month.

President Trump recently addressed his plan to reduce the high cost of prescription drugs, a major priority of his and HHS Secretary Azar. This is one of a series of blogs by Americans who have been challenged by expensive medications.

I’ve had high blood pressure even though I eat healthy, despite a bout of anemia, I appeared healthy and athletic.

In 1996, I was turned down for life insurance. I visited my doctor and after a few tests I learned that there was protein in my urine, but it was never explained what that meant.

I continued to visit my primary physician regularly, and in 2004, I went to a urologist to have my prostate checked. He informed me that it was fine—but my kidneys were failing. He asked for the name of my primary care doctor and directed me to go to the emergency room immediately.

My kidneys eventually were lost due to hypertension. I had to go on the dialysis for two years, and then I was lucky to be able to get a kidney transplant from a living donor and not have to endure what might be a five-year wait on the transplant list.

I’ll have to take immunosuppressive drugs for the rest of my life to keep my body from rejecting the transplanted kidney. Additionally, I need to take medication to control my high blood pressure and meds to help control gout. Those drugs cost me hundreds of dollars out of pocket every month.

But with dialysis, you have be connected to a machine for four hours a day, three days a week. I’ll take those pills in a heartbeat rather than go through dialysis. I’m a small-businessman: I teach business courses at Bowie State University and consult for healthcare organizations and for businesses on providing more affordable care for their employees. That’s hard to do hooked up to a dialysis machine.

I’m fortunate. I’ve been able to manage the costs so far. I’m currently 65 and I probably won’t retire because I’ll have to continue working, and one of the reasons is because of the cost of the medications that I will constantly have to pay for.

But other people aren’t as fortunate. Something has to be done about the increasing costs and complexity of charges of prescription drugs. You have 40 million people with chronic kidney disease, and that number is only going to go up.

That’s why I’ve become active in advocating for kidney patients, as a leader and founding member of a number of kidney patient advocacy groups.

I’m generally a free-market person, but there’s a role for government in better coordination in drug pricing, especially for these life-saving drugs. We all have to deal with this issue.

Posted In:
Drug Pricing
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