New kidney and liver policies expand access, equity in organ donations

Sept. 29, 2021

New liver and kidney allocation policies have expanded equitable access to lifesaving organs for patients on the national waitlist, according to data analysis from United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), which serves as the nation’s transplant system under federal contract.

UNOS leadership presented this data for members of Congress during a virtual briefing. 

Changes to the liver allocation policy went into effect in February of 2020 and the kidney allocation policy followed a year later, in March of 2021. Recent monitoring report data show the liver and kidney policies have so far resulted in more transplants overall while also reducing disparities in access based on where a patient is listed. 

Liver transplants increased by 3 percent and kidney transplants increased by 16 percent, even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is in keeping with the high performance of the national donation and transplantation system, which marked the eighth year of growth in deceased donor transplants in 2020 despite the ongoing global health crisis. 

“These policies expand equitable access to lifesaving organs,” said UNOS CEO Brian Shepard. “We continue to make progress through robust policy development, improving the highest performing organ donation and transplantation system in the world.” 

The 15-month liver monitoring report shows that the policy is performing as intended. More organs are going to the sickest patients, especially adults with the most medically-urgent needs, regardless of where they are listed for transplant. 

 Early monitoring data of the circles-based model for kidney allocation indicate that it has also contributed to broadened equity. A new report containing key measures of the first full two-months of enactment show an increase in kidney transplants for children, ethnic and racial minorities, moderately hard-to-match patients and those with longer dialysis times. 

More than 400 donation and transplant professionals, donor family members and patients nationwide helped develop the new policies. 

UNOS release