December 13, 2018
WASHINGTON – This week, U.S. Senators Roy Blunt (Mo.) and Jerry Moran (Kan.) sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services regarding their concerns over recent changes to the national liver distribution policy made by the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN). Under the new policy, midwestern and southern transplant hospitals, including hospitals located in St. Louis and the Kansas City area, could see patients from Missouri and Kansas waiting longer for a liver match.
“This decision disregards expert opinion, overturns the current policy adopted in December 2017, and calls into question the OPTN process and whether it can fairly determine a policy for distributing livers nationwide,” the senators wrote. “Last week’s decision to ignore the Liver and Intestine Committee’s recommendation is extremely concerning. The Liver and Intestine Committee is comprised of a panel of transplant experts from some of the most prestigious institutions in the country charged with considering the medical, scientific, and ethical aspects related to liver procurement. As such, the Committee’s recommendations should be followed unless there are specific, vetted, and justifiable reasons to do otherwise. The OPTN Board’s decision to overturn the Liver and Intestine Committee’s decision does not meet this standard. …
In the letter, the senators note that the most recent OPTN decision is fundamentally different than the decision reached by the OPTN Board last year, calling into question not only the policy itself, but raising serious concerns about the process by which it was reached.
“The OPTN process needs to be open, transparent, and one that takes into consideration both the expertise of the Liver and Intestine Committee and the public comments submitted by the current liver distribution regions. … Last week’s decision undermines the entire process and calls into question why the Department has ceded control.”
In October, Blunt and Moran met with the Administrator of the Health Resources and Services Administration to discuss this issue.
Click here to read the full letter.