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Congress investigates National Academies after report details ties between drug companies and panel members

Christina Jewett and JoNel Aleccia, Kaiser Health News on

Published in News & Features

Becker’s resignation comes amid continued scrutiny of the U.S. organ transplant system, which is overseen by the United Network for Organ Sharing, or UNOS, a nonprofit federal contractor.

Critics, including members of Congress, have questioned the performance of many of the nation’s 57 organ procurement organizations, or OPOs, which hold federal charters that guarantee their monopolies to collect and distribute organs in specific geographic areas of the United States.

“The organ transplant industry has long been a haven for fraud, waste and abuse,” Rep. Porter, D-Calif., said in a statement to KHN. “I’m grateful NASEM is also working to hold OPOs accountable, but I’m concerned that potential conflicts of interest could cloud their judgment.”

Jennifer Erickson, a senior fellow and director of the organs initiative at the nonpartisan Federation of American Scientists, raised questions about conflicts of interest with NASEM during a July 15 session.

“Disclosure is critical. The public deserves to know about conflicts of interest and undisclosed payments,” she said. “A good start would be for all members of this committee to publicly disclose their business relationships related to organ contractors, (organ) tissue businesses and trade associations so that the public can be aware.”

The Trump administration approved new rules in 2020 in an effort to boost the numbers of organs transplanted by OPOs by more than 7,000 a year. Nearly 107,000 people in the United States are awaiting organs, and dozens die each day for lack of a transplant. About 39,000 organs were transplanted from donors in the U.S. last year.


In May, a House subcommittee chaired by Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill., held a hearing on problems in the organ transplant system, including issues revealed by reporting from KHN and Reveal that found that donated organs ― mostly kidneys ― are repeatedly lost or damaged when shipped via commercial flights. From 2014 to 2019, nearly 170 organs failed to be transplanted and almost 370 endured “near misses” with delays of two hours or more, jeopardizing their usefulness for ailing patients.

Reps. Krishnamoorthi and Porter have asked NASEM to provide them with an explanation of whether it plans to disclose any committee conflicts in the forthcoming organ report. They also requested any record of donations to NASEM from organ procurement organizations or related businesses or associations.



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