PITTSBURGH, July 20, 1999 — The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC), which has long advocated for federal oversight of the national transplant system, supports the recommendations released today by the Institute of Medicine(IOM).
The IOM makes sweeping recommendations that call for "legitimate oversight" by the Department of Health and Humans Services (HHS), as intended by the National Organ Transplant Act and put forth in an HHS regulation published in 1998 in order "to manage the system of organ procurement and transplantation in the public interest."
The HHS regulation was delayed by Congress last October so that the IOM could closely study its impact.
The IOM strongly recommends data be more accessible and that an independent scientific review board be established to ensure "the system of organ procurement and transplantation is grounded on the best available medical science and is as effective and equitable as possible."
"The report affirms what we have been saying for nearly a decade -- that the federal government needs to provide effective oversight to the national transplant system, on behalf of patients and the general public. The HHS regulation needs to be implemented to ensure accountability of the system," said John J. Fung, M.D., Ph.D., professor of surgery and director of the Thomas E. Starzl Transplantation Institute at the University of Pittsburgh.
"The report also supports the concept of broader sharing so that those who need the organs the most will have access to them. Furthermore, the rhetoric put forth by the United Network for Organ Sharing and others opposed to the regulation has been unmasked. The IOM has found no data to suggest centers will close and donation will suffer should the HHS regulation go into effect," he added.
The IOM came to study the nation's Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN) after being assigned the task last October by Congress. At that time, in response to intense political lobbying waged by UNOS, the contractor that operates the OPTN, Congress delayed for one year a federal regulation issued by HHS that called for changes to the transplant system. As part of its charge, the IOM was asked to study the impact of the regulation, which asked the OPTN to devise organ allocation polices that de-emphasized geography and gave greater weight to medical urgency factors. It also called for greater access to useful data so those patients could make informed choices about where to receive transplants. Specifically, the IOM was to assess the effects of the regulation on access to transplantation for low-income populations, organ donation rates, and the survival of transplant small centers.