FMC sees U.S. government easing home dialysis goals

FRANKFURT, Feb 20 (Reuters) - Fresenius Medical Care (FMC) , the world’s largest kidney dialysis provider, is confident the U.S. government will soften initial targets for treating patients with kidney disease at home rather than in dedicated centres.

Chief Executive Rice Powell told Reuters a goal laid out by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) last July for 80% of new patients to undergo dialysis at home or receive organ transplants by 2025 was under review amid industry criticism.

While Fresenius is developing less bulky and easier-to-use dialysis equipment and smartphone apps for home treatment, Powell said dialysis companies risked financial penalties if they kept patients who were deemed unsuitable for home treatment in dialysis centres under the new goals.

Speaking after the release of fourth quarter results, he said patients and physicians should be allowed to decide whether they wanted to make a change.

“We said to the government you can’t dictate this. You can’t make this mandatory.”

He said the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump was likely to rework the executive order this year, hopefully in time for an October investor event where FMC plans to map out its five-year business goals.

The government is keen to rein in the $114 billion spent each year to treat chronic kidney disease and end-stage renal disease.

Powell said that while his company had no influence over kidney transplant rates it was feasible to have 25% to 30% of FMC’s patients treated at home by 2025, up from 13% now.

The advantages of home dialysis means blood can also be cleansed while a patient sleeps, which allows about 40% of patients to continue working.

On the downside, it requires help from a family member, space for medical gear in the home and confidence to operate it.

Those factors put hard limits on the government’s ambitions to encourage a change in medical practice, Powell argued.

Closest rival DaVita Inc and FMC between them operate more than 5,000 U.S. dialysis clinics, controlling around 70 percent of the market.

FMC, which acquired home dialysis specialist NxStage Medical for $2 billion a year ago, runs almost 2,600 dialysis centres in North America and a total of 4,000 globally.

Powell said home treatment resulted in lower staffing expenses but the government should initially refrain from offering financial incentives to keep patients out of dialysis centres.

“I believe enough in it that if I got diagnosed tomorrow...I would do (dialysis) at home – because I want to work,” said Powell. (Reporting by Ludwig Burger; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)