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Project to help poor get new kidneys
By Ma Lie (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-06-03 22:34

A medical project to help poor patients who suffer from kidney failure but cannot afford the cost of transplant operations began on Thursday in Xi'an, capital of Northwest China's Shaanxi Province.

Named the Novartis Fund for Kidney Transplant Between Relatives, the effort is part of a national medical programme launched by the International Exchange and Co-operation Centre under the Ministry of Public Health and Novartis Fund of People and Environment, according to Zhou Jian, a public health ministry official.

Zhou announced the implementation of the project in Xi'an Thursday at the second seminar of the Co-operative Programme for Organs Donation and Transplant in China.

More than 100 ministry officials, Novartis' managers and experts on organ transplants from across the country participated, exchanging ideas.

"During the period from 2004 to 2006, we will pay 1 million yuan (US$120,000) for the project, to help kidney donators needing operations," said Paul Lau, president of Novartis' China Organization.

In China, kidney transplants between relatives represent the only method for live kidney transplants. However,operations cannot be carried out for many patients because of money shortages among poorer patients' families.

"Because he is not ill himself, the donor and his family have to pay for the operation and other medical treatments concerned, which makes the cost a heavy burden," Zhou said.

Trading of live organs is banned in China, but transplanting organs between relatives is legal and encouraged, the official said.

Novartis, foreign partner of the project, is a leading pharmaceutical manufacturer that has been promoting organ transplants in China for 20 years. In August of last year, Novartis invested 9.6 million yuan (US$1.17 million) in the Co-operative Programme of Organs Donation and Transplant in China with the International Exchange and Co-operation Centre under the Ministry of Public Health, Lau said.

In order to further promote organ transplants in China, a first sports meet for patients who received organs more than a year ago will be held from June 25-27 in Wuhan, Zhou said.

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