Indian dialysis patients, please hold your horses

The internet has suddenly been agog with news about the Wearable Artificial Kidney. Many articles did the rounds about the trial on seven patients for 24 hours straight. Many Indian patients and well-wishers got excited about this news and started dreaming of the day when they could simply wrap a belt around their stomachs and live an untethered life free of diet and fluid restrictions.

My advice to them: hold your excitement.

So, here's the truth: the device, though very exciting and the first real innovation in dialysis technology in decades is still in its very early stages. As you might have read in the article:

"this trial of the device was stopped after the seventh patient because of technical problems with the device. These included the excessive formation of carbon dioxide gas bubbles in the dialysis solution, and intermittent variations in solution and blood flow."

There will be many such roadblocks that will need to be solved. I have had the good fortune to meet with Dr. Victor Gura, the brain behind the WAK. Dr. Gura is an extremely passionate man, an exceptional genius and has the determination to see this project through. But it will take time. Rome, they say, wasn't built in a day. Neither will the WAK.

Once the WAK is ready for commercial production (and I estimate this to take another five years at the very least), it will be another ten years for it to come to India, if at all.

I sound very pessimistic but take a look at a related fact. The NxStage System One, which is the world's first portable hemodialysis machine has been available in the US for at least a decade now. There is no sign of the machine coming to India. India is not even on the radar of the company. This is quite understandable because most Indians pay for their healthcare expenses out of pocket and would not be able to afford the machine or the recurring costs of the supplies. Government and private insurance coverage is also minimal. Most insurance coverages are also restrictive and have low caps.

Keeping all this in mind, I estimate the WAK to become available for patients like me and you only after 15 years at the very least. So, we must still keep our excitement under check!