Improved transplant drugs benefiting kidney recipients

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — Improved drugs are making a huge difference in kidney transplants. They are now better able to help prevent the body from rejecting a donated kidney.

On average, a donated kidney off the list can last 10 to 13 years. A live donor’s can last even longer.

John Lavin is on his second donated kidney after the first lasted 13 years. Once a month, he goes to the transplant center at Yale-New Haven Hospital to get his anti-rejection drug, intravenously. Lavin was 12-years old when his health deteriorated. 

“It was basically as a result of strep throat that had traveled to my kidneys,” he said.

His sister donated his first kidney. His brother gave him his second one, which has lasted nearly 18 years.

“I’m going to try to do as much as I can to make it last as long as possible,” Lavin said.

Over time, the body rejects kidneys that are not a perfect match, which is the case for John. But, he is benefiting from advancements of transplant drugs.

“Newer and better immune drugs that prevent the body from rejecting the organ, but also don’t have the side effects,” said Dr. Margaret Bia, John’s transplant surgeon. “If they got a kidney from somebody on the list, there was a 50-50 chance it would work, and now the rejection episode is down below 10-percent, below 5-percent.”

Still, there are not enough donors for the amount of people who need a kidney.

“Whether it’s a cadaver or whether it’s a living donor, they need donors and that is what keeps people on dialysis for so many years because they can’t find a donor,” said Karen Corbin, National Kidney Foundation.

Lavin does what he can to raise awareness. He is chair of this year’s Fairfield County Kidney Walk. Look for his team, Transplant Trotters.

A third transplant is likely.

“It’s one of those, ‘I’ll try not to get there, but I’ve been through it twice now already so we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it,'” said John.

His health has improved since going on the IV anti-rejection kidney drug. His cholesterol and sugar levels have come down and he is no longer on diabetes medication.

The Fairfield County Kidney Walk is Saturday, May 16 at Calf Pasture Beach. Check-in time is 9:30 a.m. and start time is 10:30 a.m. For more information, click here, or contact Rob Gerowe at (203) 439-7912 or

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