Health Care:

Immunosuppressant Drugs

HEHS-94-207R: Published: Aug 1, 1994. Publicly Released: Aug 1, 1994.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the use of immunosuppressant drugs by organ transplant patients, focusing on: (1) the number of organ transplants performed in 1991; (2) the survival rates for the patients who receive immunosuppressant drugs; (3) the cost of extending Medicare coverage of immunosuppressant drugs; and (4) whether such drugs would be covered under the various health reform proposals. GAO noted that: (1) over 16,000 organ transplants were performed in 1991, and the number of transplants is increasing steadily; (2) the length of time that patients survive after a transplant has been increasing; (3) the cost of immunosuppressive therapy can range from $4,000 to $6,000 per person per year; (4) for beneficiaries who receive an organ transplant, Medicare currently pays for the necessary immunosuppressant drugs for the first year after the transplant operation; (5) the additional 2 years of Medicare coverage for immunosuppressant drugs would increase annual health care costs by $77 million; (6) extending coverage to 6 years would essentially double the costs to Medicare, adding approximately $115 million to the Medicare program; and (7) prescription drugs would be covered by the various health reform plans, but the Cooper/Breaux plan does not explicitly define the benefits to be provided.

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