ORGAN ALLOCATION: HHS Launches New Advisory Committee
HHS yesterday announced it will form a new 20-member advisory committee to help guide the debate over "how best to share the nation's scarce supply of organs," the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports. Originally proposed last year by the Institute of Medicine, the group will include HHS-appointed members from "the fields of public policy, medicine, biostatistics, health economics, epidemiology and ethics," as well as members of the public, including transplant patients and their relatives. The committee will advise federal officials and the nation's transplant network on organ allocation policy, such as whether organs should be shared regionally or distributed on a national scale to the sickest patients first. The group also will examine other issues surrounding organ transplants, including "ethical, insurance coverage and financial matters." The IOM "recommended creation of a new entity to provide the department with top-notch, science-based counsel on transplantation policy. This new advisory committee will fill that need," HHS Secretary Donna Shalala said yesterday. The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports that Shalala's announcement came as "experts gathered in Texas" to discuss changes to liver allocation policy; she said she hopes the committee will be in place when the new liver proposal -- now open for public comment -- arrives at her office for federal approval later this fall. Walter Graham, executive director of the Richmond, Va.-based United Network for Organ Sharing, which currently runs the nation's transplant system, called the committee announcement the "next step in the continuing improvement of the organ transplant network," adding that UNOS "will be recommending several top transplant experts" for committee nomination and plans to "work closely with the advisory committee in the development of organ allocation policy." But UNOS' contract to run the transplant system is currently up for renewal, and another organization, the Pittsburgh, Pa.-based Center for Support of the Transplant Community, has also bid on the contract. HHS is expected to notify UNOS later this week whether it has won a renewal (Hostetler, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 9/28).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.