When Roxanne Watson discovered she needed a heart transplant three years after her heart attack in 2006, she had no idea what to expect. How long would she have to wait? Would her life ever look the same? If she did manage to survive long enough to receive a new heart, would her body just reject it? A year later, she got her answers when a 23-year-old U.S. Coast Guard Fireman named Michael Bovill passed away tragically in 2010. Bovill was an organ donor, and his heart would be given to Roxanne.

After her transplant surgery, Roxanne waited a mere nine days in the hospital before she was allowed to go home. Eight years later, she is still alive and healthy, and she has dedicated her life to signing up as many new organ donors as possible. To ward off the possibility that her immune system will reject her new heart, Roxanne takes two different anti-rejection medications every day, as well as a variety of blood pressure medication and dietary supplements.

“Advances in immunosuppressive therapy have made meaningful life prolongation an everyday reality. Patients can expect to return to healthy, productive lives,” says Salim Mujais, senior vice president & therapeutic area head for Immunology, Transplant, Infectious Disease, CNS and Pain at Astellas.

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Advances in immunosuppressant therapies are helping thousands of patients like Roxanne live fulfilling lives. According to a new report released by Astellas and authored by Xcenda L.L.C., five-year survival rates after solid organ transplantation are now extremely high – 86 percent for kidney patients, 80 percent for pancreas, 78 percent for heart patients, and 75 percent for liver. The vast majority of patients (97 percent) who receive a kidney transplant today will survive the first year, an outcome once thought unimaginable.

In addition to improving both quality and quantity of life, these therapies save money, reducing patient health care costs by sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Astellas’ report notes that the cost per patient for each year on kidney dialysis is approximately $121,000. The average Medicare reimbursement for a patient in the first year post-kidney transplant averages $83,401, with annual costs in successive years averaging just over $25,000. Thus, over the course of a normal lifetime for a patient with end-stage kidney disease, cost savings from transplantation in place of dialysis can be as much as $735,000 per patient. Not only is this a huge reduction in financial burden on the patient, but it also contributes to overall savings in the health care system.

“These cost figures make a larger, important point about the relationship between innovation and health system sustainability,” said Shontelle Dodson, senior vice president, health systems, at Astellas. “Without the innovation that has taken place in immunosuppressant medications, patients would still be reliant upon a long-term, high-cost dialysis treatment regimen. Improved patient health yields reduced costs within our health system.”

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Examples like these demonstrate that advances in treatments are not only the result of the incredible innovation happening in the biopharmaceutical industry, but may also be the start of a path to lower health care costs. Innovation and affordability are not mutually-exclusive outcomes; in fact, we can have both.

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