United Health Foundation has given $500,000 to United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) to integrate UNOS’s kidney paired donation (KPD) matching service into the national transplant system’s technology infrastructure.
One of the fastest-growing areas of transplantation is living donation, in which transplant candidates obtain the organ (often a kidney) they need from a healthy, living donor. Until recently, no transplant could take place if a patient was incompatible with his or her living donor.
Today, KPD enables willing but incompatible donors to help their intended recipients obtain transplants. KPD matches one incompatible donor/recipient pair to another pair with a similar incompatibility, so that the donor of the first pair gives to the recipient of the second, and vice versa. The two pairs exchange kidneys, resulting in two transplants that could not have otherwise taken place.
The funding from United Health Foundation will help UNOS automate current features of KPD matching that are now performed on a manual and scheduled basis, thus making KPD matching services more readily available to all kidney programs and their patients over the next year. United Health Foundation is being joined by Pfizer, the Amgen Foundation and Genentech in funding this innovative and much-needed resource.
By expanding the KPD matching service, UNOS aims to provide every U.S. kidney transplant program universal access to a larger pool of candidates and donors in order to facilitate more life-changing kidney transplants. The impact of paired donation on the transplant field is unprecedented. According to UNOS, it is estimated that, once fully operational, hundreds more transplants will take place. In addition, it is expected to reduce waiting times for organs and lead to better outcomes, as candidates who receive kidneys from living donors live longer, on average, than people who receive kidneys from deceased donors.
“We are very grateful for United Health Foundation’s support,” said UNOS Vice President/President-Elect Kenneth Andreoni, M.D., who has spearheaded development of UNOS’ KPD services. “It will help us in key areas such as software programming, training and educational resources for KPD users, transplant candidates and prospective donors. This gift helps us focus our efforts on providing more transplant opportunities for all transplant candidates with potential living donors.”
“The exciting work that UNOS is doing to facilitate kidney paired donation will lead to shorter waits, more transplants and better health outcomes,” said United Health Foundation President Kate Rubin. “United Health Foundation is grateful for the opportunity to support an organization that will improve the health and well-being of thousands of people, and even save lives.”
Often, kidney donors are genetically related to the transplant candidate; however, candidates are not always compatible with their potential donors. In this instance, KPD allows a potential donor to still donate. “Paired donation,” or “paired exchange,” involves two pairs of potential living kidney donors and transplant candidates who are incompatible. The two candidates exchange donors so that each candidate receives a kidney from a compatible donor. In some cases, this type of exchange has involved multiple living kidney donor/transplant candidate pairs, creating a chain of donors “paying it forward” to benefit others.
About the United Health Foundation
Guided by a passion to help people live healthier lives, United Health Foundation provides helpful information to support decisions that lead to better health outcomes and healthier communities.
The Foundation also supports activities that expand access to quality health care services for those in challenging circumstances and partners with others to improve the well-being of communities. After its establishment by UnitedHealth Group [NYSE: UNH] in 1999 as a not-for-profit, private foundation, the Foundation has committed more than $200 million to improve health and health care. For additional information, please visit www.unitedhealthfoundation.org.