ASN Participates in World Kidney Day 2009

ASN President Thomas Coffman and The Sopranos actor Vincent Curatola.

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In honor of World Kidney Day 2009, more than 20 ASN members and staff and dozens of patients and representatives from the National Kidney Foundation, Dialysis Patient Citizens, and the American Society of Pediatric Nephrology visited more than 100 congressional offices on March 12 to urge sustained funding for kidney disease research and greater support for programs that improve treatment outcomes for patients suffering from kidney disease. World Kidney Day (celebrated every year on the second Thursday of March) is a global campaign focused on publicizing the importance of kidney health and reducing the frequency and impact of kidney disease and its associated health problems.

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This year, ASN member physicians urged their members of Congress to expand coverage of life-saving medications needed to reduce the likelihood of organ rejection among transplant recipients. Patient advocates explained that Medicare coverage for immunosuppressive drugs expires after 36 months even though they must take the drugs for their entire lives if they are to reduce the risk of rejection. The immunosuppressive drug protocol is significantly cheaper than the alternative. The drugs cost $11,000 per year, while Medicare must pay $81,000 per patient for graft failure and $71,000 per year for dialysis. Participants asked their senators and representatives to support bills introduced in both chambers of Congress to amend title XVIII of the Social Security Act to provide continued entitlement in coverage for these drugs.

ASN members also encouraged support for robust research funding via the National Institutes of Health (NIH). While appreciative of the $10 billion increase provided to NIH under the economic stimulus package, ASN advocates reminded their representatives that increases over the newly established base are essential to prevent a hard landing in fiscal year 2011 that might stall discovery and innovation. ASN members also highlighted the need for additional basic and clinical research on the relationship between kidney disease and diabetes, hypertension, and obesity, and urged continued support to maintain the pipeline of investigators dedicated to studying the disease.

Advocates also discussed the importance of addressing health-care disparities in future legislation. Armed with disconcerting statistics, ASN members educated their representatives on the disparate health outcomes among their African American and Hispanic patients compared to Caucasian patients.

The evening before World Kidney Day, more than 200 guests joined the co-chairs of the Congressional Kidney Caucus, Reps. Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Jim McDermott (D-WA), as well as Reps. Shelley Berkley (D-NV), Steve Kagen (D-WI), Gene Green (D-TX), and special celebrity guests Vince Curatola of HBO’s The Sopranos and the Washington Redskins’ Reed Doughty, to celebrate the launch of World Kidney Day with a congressional reception.

On Friday, March 13, ASN members encouraged support for kidney disease research at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, and the National Institute on Aging. ASN representatives discussed with NIH officials the importance of interdisciplinary trials and of improving communication regarding the use of the $10 billion stimulus funding.

Additional World Kidney Day celebrations around the world included:

  • The launch of the Rediscovering Food & Flavours Cookbook by renowned TV chef Lawrence Keogh, from BBC One’s Saturday Kitchen and Roast restaurant in London’s Borough Market (developed in conjunction with Shire).
  • A lecture at Benhah University in Benhah, Egypt, on how to prevent and screen a high-risk population for CKD; how to prevent and manage high blood pressure; and the role of environmental pollutants, a cause of CKD in the region.
  • An educational symposium held by the Japan Association of Chronic Kidney Disease Initiative and The Kidney Foundation, Japan.
  • A presentation and recipe contest to encourage healthy, kidney-friendly meals in Vancouver, British Columbia.
  • A cultural event in Nagpur, India, with songs, dance, drama, and more, with dialysis technicians and nurses providing some of the entertainment.
  • In Yangon, Myanmar, a 20-minute television broadcast on CKD.
  • A march with the public, local celebrities, health leaders, and professionals to promote World Kidney Day in Casablanca, Morocco.
  • A bicycle ride by three nephrologists in Cardiff, U.K., to raise money for dialysis centers.

For more information on how you can participate in ASN advocacy, please contact ASN Director of Policy and Public Affairs Paul Smedberg at (202) 416-0646 or psmedberg@asn-online.org.