Minorities Underrepresented in the National Bone Marrow Registry, GAO Report Finds
About 33% of people in the United States who need bone marrow transplants use the National Bone Marrow Registry to locate a match, according to a General Accounting Office study released on Friday, the AP/Contra Costa Times reports. The study also found that the number of minorities listed in the registry is disproportionately low. Although the number of minority donors listed on the registry has increased from about 80,000 in 1992 to more than one million, "African Americans and Hispanics are underrepresented by 17% and 15%, respectively," according to the report. Such a disparity is significant because patients seeking bone marrow transplants are more likely to find a match with members of the same racial or ethnic group, the report stated. However, GAO researchers said that legislation passed in 1998 that required the registry to "intensify its efforts" to recruit minorities has resulted in significant improvement since the last review of the registry was completed in 1992. The study suggests that factors such as cost and speed can affect patients' and physicians' use of the registry. For example, 25% of donor searches registered with the list are canceled because bone marrow is located from another source, often from another country. The average cost of foreign bone marrow is about $13,000, compared to about $21,000 from the U.S. registry, according to one transplant center director. In addition, some foreign sources can provide bone marrow a week sooner than the U.S. registry. The study also found that 44% of registered donor searches are canceled because patients become too weak to benefit from a transplant or die (Recer, AP/Contra Costa Times, 10/19).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.