Kidney Disease: Growing Epidemic or Emerging Market?

While doing research for the recent post about alcohol and kidney failure I came across the website of the International Society of Nephrology. They say they are an “philanthropic organization dedicated to advancing worldwide kidney health.”

That caught my attention.

After all, the nephrologists that have worked with my wife as she steadily descended from stage-three, to -four and finally -five kidney failure seemed to do next to nothing for the health of her kidneys. Sure, they gave her blood pressure drugs but… And the local dialysis clinic is called a Kidney Care Centre. Yet they do absolutely nothing to actually care for the kidneys – just replace them with dialysis or transplants.

But maybe this charitable society would be different. Nephrologists working to cure kidney disease instead of merely manage it.

Looking through the site I was further surprised to see a press release with the headline: “Baxter and the International Society of Nephrology Announce a Collaboration to Address Growing Prevalence of Kidney Disease.”

I’ve hauled enough jugs of dialysis fluid with the Baxter logo up two flights of stairs (during the time Nicole was on home dialysis) to know what business Baxter is in. So, naturally, I was impressed to read that such a company would actually be trying to stop the “growing prevalence” of people requiring their dialysis products.

Or  so I thought. Reading a little further I was even more shocked to see the article (with the prefix “investor” in the URL) blatantly refer to the growing number of people losing their kidney function as  “emerging markets.”

That made me go back and take note of the careful use of wording in their headline. They said they would “Address Growing Prevalence of Kidney failure.” They didn’t say “Stop.” The headline might as well have said they would “Profit from Growing Prevalence of Kidney Disease.”

That’s fine. They are in the business of selling dialysis machines, disposable parts for those machine and lots and lots of heavy jugs of fluid for those machines. Nephrologists are in the business of managing people on those machines. Yes, it’s (probably) better than not having dialysis available at all. And I hope they can find safer, cheaper and more humane ways of treating people with failed kidneys but…

What irks me is that this is being framed under a charitable cause while it seems more like a money-making opportunity. They’re saying they are trying to advance kidney health but focus on selling “replacement parts.” The word “prevention,” for example, only comes up once in the investor announcement. No mention of a cure.

That people will donate money to such organizations (which clearly partner with biased big business) hoping that they will find a cure for kidney failure seems very unfortunate. Do you really think organizations that speak about kidney failure patients as an “emerging market” are going to truly put much effort towards creating a “shrinking market?”

Thinking outside the T1D Matrix,
–John C. A. Manley

P.S. Recently I was chastised for not “believing in modern medical science.” Interesting they used the word “belief.” Are we talking about religion or science? And are the one’s speaking about patients as “emerging markets” really paying attention to the science? I’m all for true medical science. For example, check out my previous article about the good work the Cleveland Clinic’s Sydell and Arnold Miller Family Heart & Vascular Institute has done to identify the role TMAO plays in kidney failure.

P.P.S. If you would like to donate to real research that doesn’t see dialysis patients as an “emerging market” go to Even $5 from enough people will pay for this experiment.

About the Author: John C. A. Manley researches and writes about alternative treatments for type-1 diabetes and its many complications. His wife, Nicole, of 15 years has had type-1 diabetes for four decades. Together they have lowered her HgbA1c below 5.5%, regained thyroid function, increased kidney function and reversed gastroparesis. Read more about their journey out of the T1D matrix or subscribe to their Diabetic Dharma blog..