President Donald Trump’s kidney care initiative has energized investors and innovators, Health and Human Services (HHS) Deputy Secretary Eric Hargan told The Heartland Daily Podcast, suggesting there could soon be significant advancement in treatment for end-stage kidney disease.
“We [have been] stuck in this past technological mode with regard to dialysis and have been for decades with very little innovation,” Hargan said.
Last summer, Trump issued an executive order on kidney care to encourage transplants and at-home dialysis. End-stage kidney disease, the ninth leading cause of death, consumes one of every five dollars the federal government spends on health care, says Hargan, and for four decades, Medicare has covered dialysis costs, regardless of age.
“That was a great system in the ‘70s and government has done a great job in bringing down the margins, which is a good thing because the taxpayer isn’t paying more for the dialysis services,” Hargan said. “But at the same time, and I’ll let you fill in the blanks, innovation has completely stalled on a low margin item being delivered and paid for by the government.”
Hargan said there has been a tremendous response from investors and innovators to the kidney initiative and many have told him they are excited to have “a strategic vision” for the first time.
It is instructive to compare kidney disease to cancer over the past 40 years, says Hargan.
“Many types of cancer have been cured, or turned into chronic disease or substantially alleviated,” Hargan said. In dialysis, “they’d be watching a flat screen TV, reading an iPhone instead of magazines, and maybe have a motorized easy chair instead of one with levers.”
HHS has launched the “Kidney X,” project, which offers a prize for innovative solutions to kidney care. Hargan says it has attracted people who aren’t traditionally involved in medical innovation, such as engineers and college students.