According to UNOS, 19,513 transplants were performed between January and June 2019. While their diagnoses and organ needs differ, all transplant recipients share one thing: the need for immunosuppressants, the anti-rejection medications that prevent a recipient’s body from resisting and fighting against a transplanted organ.
These medications represent a critical component of post-transplant health and wellness, but like so many other facets of transplantation, anti-rejection medications are much more complicated than they seem. From their effects on the body to their jaw-dropping price tags, here are five facts about transplant medications.
5. The average cost of anti-rejection meds exceeds $36,800.
According to a 2017 annual report from Milliman, post-transplant medication costs can range from $14,500 to over $71,000 before insurance. Some medications are covered only in part by insurance, and some aren’t covered at all—at Help Hope Live, we’ve encountered multiple transplant patients whose anti-rejection medication costs were in the thousands per month after insurance.
4. These medications are so critical that not supplying them can constitute child abuse.
In July 2019, parents in New Mexico were charged with child abuse for failing to provide anti-rejection medications and follow-up care to their 1-year-old son after a liver transplant. As heart transplant recipient Renee Houghton puts it, ”A transplant is a special gift, one that cannot be taken for granted….a lifelong commitment.”
3. Transplant medications can lead to other health complications.
While lifesaving, anti-rejection medications can come with life-threatening side effects. Due to their immune system-weakening effects, post-transplant meds can make patients more susceptible to issues from greater sun exposure damage to high cholesterol or blood sugar to certain cancers. Transplant meds can also place strain on other organs—for instance, a pancreas transplant recipient may eventually struggle with kidney issues or even require a kidney transplant to stay healthy.
2. A transplant team can require patients to prove their financial readiness.
A transplant represents a significant financial responsibility, and to ensure that organs only go to patients who can care for them, transplant teams can require patients to prove their financial health before their names are added to the transplant waiting list. No funding? No transplant. Some transplant candidates have been #forcedtofundraise to meet these listing requirements—sometimes raising tens of thousands of dollars or more.
- Even with insurance, the out-of-pocket cost can be debilitating.
For transplant families, post-transplant medications represent just one of dozens of potential financial blows associated with the transplant process, including multiple costs that insurance will not cover (think travel and temporary lodging, physical therapy, health-related home modifications, and caregiving).
If you or someone you know can’t afford medication and other transplant-related essentials, submit an application to receive personalized, compassionate, and fraud-free fundraising help from our national nonprofit, Help Hope Live. Since 1983, nearly 4,000 patients have successfully received transplants while fundraising with Help Hope Live.
Transplants are expensive, but they shouldn’t be financially devastating. #WhyWeFundraise