How Much Does an Islet Cell Transplant Cost?
An islet cell transplant is one of the new options to help diabetics cope with their disease. For so long, insulin has been the perpetual recourse to control type 1 diabetes. But medical scientists are constantly studying alternative solutions that can effectively manage the increasing blood sugar problem and just recently, they came up with the islet cell transplant.
An islet cell transplant involves taking out beta islet cells from a healthy donor pancreas and moving them to a type 1 diabetic patient. Once implanted and the recipient’s immune system accepts the foreign body, it is hoped that the islet cell will work to produce and release insulin so that the patient may be able to cope with his deficiency.
It should be noted, however, that at present there is still a limited supply of islet transplant, and medical professionals admit that they cannot readily apply the procedure to every diabetic patient. Besides, the cost of the procedure is still prohibitive to many, if not most, patients.
How much does it cost?
- Because the procedure is relatively new, most hospitals are only conducting studies regarding islet cell transplants, and the patients that participate will not have to pay anything. However, additional charges such as transportation and medications may be applied.
- According to the cost analysis published by the American Diabetes Association, the average cost of islet transplantation would be around $80,000.
- Since the islet cell transplant is still in its “under development” and experimental stage, the patient does not have to pay for the procedure itself under the Clinical Islet Transplant Program at the University of Alberta. But the patient has to pay for his/her transportation expenses associated with the transplant, maintenance appointments, and the costs of his medications.
What is going to be included?
- The procedure includes a one year follow-up.
- The cost given by the American Diabetes Association is composed of the following elements:
- Islet preparation – 30% of the total cost
- Adverse events – 24%
- Drugs – 14%
- Hospitalization – 13%
- Common side effects can include mild bleeding or blood clots.
- Patients that qualify for the procedure will have type 1 diabetes and significant hypoglycemic events.
What are the extra costs?
- According to studies, a patient will require more than one, or even up to three, islet cell transplants to achieve a successful treatment. Therefore, a patient will have to spend a lot more during the succeeding procedures.
- Although the procedure itself is paid for by research companies, the patient has to spend for his medications after the surgery.
- Other additional expenses include transportation and housing.
Factors that influence the price:
- The overall costs of islet transplantation are a bit higher than those of pancreas procedure because of the complexity of the process.
- The cost of islet cell transplant varies from one hospital or medical center to another.
- The cost of your medications depends on your treatment. Definitely, you will have to spend more during the first few months because you will be required to take higher dosages of it. But, after six months, the cost of your medications will considerably lessen as your dosage decreases.
Tips to know:
- The islet transplant procedure can be done alone or together with a kidney transplant.
- Since islet transplantation is still very new, only a few hospitals are able to perform the procedure. Just like any other surgical procedures, an islet transplant poses the risk of rejection and infection. The human immune system has a built in capability of destroying foreign bodies and therefore, it is likely to reject the beta islet cells from another system.
- Today, islet cell transplant is still considered experimental and remains in its “under development” status. Although it has so far proved to be successful in most cases and to cause very few side effects, there has not been enought time to test long term effects. Therefore, this type of transplant is a risk in itself.
Questions to ask
- Other than rejection and infection, what are the possible health risks that come with islet cell transplant?
- Is it possible to buy an islet transplant in my area?
- Who can donate beta islet cells?
- What happens if the patient’s immune system rejects the transplanted beta islet cells?
- Can islet cell transplantation cure diabetes?
How can I save money?
- Since islet cell transplant is still a new concept, most of the procedures are paid for by research programs.
- If you need financial aid, you may inquire with your transplant team about programs that can possibly help you pay some of the costs. A social worker would also be available for consultation regarding financial assistance requirements.
- You may also check with drug companies or clinical trial sponsors if they are willing to support you with some of the medicines you need to take.
- Discuss with your health insurance company how much, or up to what extent it can help you pay for the costs. For those looking for a new policy, consider browsing through hundreds for free at eHealthInsurance.com.