Kidney disease affects an estimated 1 in 7 adults in the United States. With so many individuals affected and with 1 in 3 Americans at risk, chronic kidney disease (CKD) treatment could use an upgrade.
For most patients, treatment is either kidney transplant or dialysis, and has been for decades. Change has been gradual since 1973 when Medicare’s end stage renal disease (ESRD) program went into effect and began supporting the cost of caring for kidney transplant patients. But the government didn’t anticipate the dramatic rise in diagnoses of CKD and ESRD, and the increase in the number of individuals qualifying for the program.
At the close of 2019, the government agreed to allocate funds to support disruptive innovation in kidney disease treatment. These innovations take many forms.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid are working to make it easier for the government to pay for therapies other than dialysis.
Funds are being provided to innovation accelerator KidneyX for its prize competition. Participants are designing prototypes that address blood filtration, toxin removal, dialysis access, and more. KidneyX is also emphasizing patient involvement and feedback so innovators can better understand what patients go through.
Additionally, the Department of Health and Human Services is partnering with the American Society of Nephrology to develop an artificial kidney.
These innovations are intended to help improve the quality of life for CKD and ESRD patients and increase awareness about kidney disease prevention. While it may take a while for solutions to hit the market, the potential to see major improvements in kidney disease treatment this decade is promising.