Sunday, December 1, 2019

Don't hold your breath for the Artificial Kidney, it is still a long time away



I got a call a few weeks back from the friend of someone I know very well. This gentleman was diagnosed with kidney failure recently and was advised dialysis. He had decided to do Peritoneal Dialysis but was debating whether to opt for the manual exchanges or to get a PD cycler and do the exchanges at night. He had come across a video that was floating around the internet about the Artificial Kidney. After seeing this video, he thought since the Artificial Kidney was anyway coming next year, why invest money on buying a PD cycler?

Well, many dialysis patients got excited when this news hit the market. This is a device being developed by Dr. Shuvo Roy and his team. Unfortunately, this article and the video linked to above are yet another example of how the quality of news has deteriorated so completely in recent times. If you went through the video, the first thing that would strike you was the poor quality.

The article linked to above is no better. The headline screams, "Artificial Kidneys Could Be In Patients By 2020". This would lead people, especially dialysis patients to think that they could get the Artificial Kidney by 2020. However, the body of the article says, "There’s still a lot to be done, but the group has just been given $6 million (£4 million) to play with, and said Tuesday at the American Society of Nephrology Kidney Week that human trials within this decade are on the agenda."

Human trials within this decade are on the agenda? Human trials take several years even for simple drugs. This is a completely new class of a device. It is going to implanted into the human body. Common sense dictates that the trials be very stringent. I hate to dash the hopes of my fellow dialysis patients but honestly, I think it is going to take a minimum of five more years for this to get to a point where this will be available for patients in the US to use. In other countries, it will take even longer. This is assuming that everything in the trials goes as planned. And that is a big if.

India? I can't even guess. Take the NxStage System One. It has been in the US for more than a decade now. There are no signs of it coming to India. Conversations with people in the know have yielded that there is a major concern around affordability in India. How many people can afford a machine that costs around 10L and more importantly the consumables that cost around 4-5K per session?

There are a couple of other such breakthrough devices in various stages of development. One is Dr. Victor Gura's Wearable Artificial Kidney (WAK) and the other is the AWAK which is a device for PD. These devices are likely to come out sooner but even they will take a few more years.

It is good to be hopeful. However it is important to be pragmatic as well. When we take decisions pertaining to our health, we should never get fooled by such poorly written articles. All this may sound depressing. Many dialysis patients would be sorely disappointed. It is better to know the truth than to take a wrong decision not based on facts but on 'clickbait' headlines and sensational articles.

I explained all this to the gentleman who had called. I could sense his incredulous tone when I told him this but I hope he has taken the right decision.

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For accurate information about the Artificial Kidney project, click here or checkout their Facebook Page. Also checkout their FAQ page especially the question on how long will the clinical trials take to complete.
For more information about the Wearable Artificial Kidney, check out their Facebook Page.
For more information about the AWAK for PD, see this.
Also see Dr. John Agar's summary of new dialysis technologies.

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