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Re: National Transplant Program Improvement Initiatives

As my representative, you ought to know that when people think of organ donor programs they often think first of kidneys. But other organs are also greatly needed for transplantation.

For example, liver disease is one of the major killers in America today.

In fact, hepatitis C alone has been called a "silent epidemic" by former surgeon general Everett Koop, MD and it is estimated that as many as 4 million Americans are infected.

The death rate due to complications from this disease is expected to quadruple in the next 10 years. It is the number-one cause for liver transplants, and those numbers are rising exponentially.

There is no known cure and current treatment has an inadequate success rate (while often causing debilitating side effects).

A study presented at the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases meeting on Tuesday November 9, 1999 concluded that long-term damage from hepatitis C infections may cost the U.S. economy more than $81 billion by 2019.

The study, by researchers from the New England Medical Center and Tufts University School of Medicine, looked at what costs can be expected in the ten years from 2010 to 2019 as a result of the long-term effects of hepatitis C infections.

Most people infected by the virus do not notice any symptoms until serious liver damage starts 20 years or so later, although testing can detect the infection and lead to early treatment.

The study used a computer model to estimate the level of disease and death expected in the period 2010-2019 from existing and future infections. It found that the medical costs of treating such liver damage as cirrhosis and cancer would total at least $10.3 billion in those ten years.

Productivity lost to the work force from hepatitis C complications and death would equal another $71.5 billion, the researchers, led by Dr John Wong, said. "Our results suggest that hepatitis C will be an awakening health issue that should be addressed now," Wong said in his paper.

While some progress has been made of late in allocating donor organs there is still much to be done to increase the pool of donor organs available.

Much of this has to do with public education and active transplant initiatives.

I am requesting that you investigate this important area of public health and sponsor or co-sponsor legislation to allocate more funds for organ donor programs and education about organ donor needs.

Thank you for your attention and consideration in regard to this serious matter.

Sincerely, Advocate note: After you copy the text above, just type your zip code into the box below and click on the "Find My Reps" button. Then, when you get to the Congress.org site, you can paste the contents of this letter into your representative(s) blank e-mail page. And don't forget to sign it before you send it!!!

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