We have all had at least one person in our close circle who has had a kidney stone once in their life. Unfortunately for some of us, we also know someone who has to undergo painful dialysis every so often.
World Kidney Day is observed every second Thursday in March to raise awareness of such kidney-related diseases and the general importance of our kidneys to overall health. This global campaign is geared toward raising awareness to reduce the frequency and impact of kidney disease and its associated health problems.
Globally, hundreds of events, such as marathons and Zumba sessions, are organized to raise awareness; however, in India, unfortunately, even epidemiology tracking is missing. Rough estimates for one of the most debilitating and, sadly, incurable disorders—CKD—suggest that overall CKD prevalence in India is 8.5% of the total population. Considering India had a total population of 1.4 billion in 2022, the absolute number of CKD patients is nearly 121 million. The true problem starts with a low diagnosis of 5%-7% of incident cases in a year. Even if we leave aside access problems, the bigger challenge is the lack of awareness to drive patients to consult a doctor on the manifestation of initial symptoms (poor appetite, insomnia, tiredness, abnormal urine color, etc.). Even if the patient does get diagnosed and reaches a stage where they require regular dialysis, they either can’t afford it or can’t access a dialysis center. For example, Frost & Sullivan estimates that 2.81 million patients in India require regular dialysis or kidney transplants, but only 0.22 million patients underwent dialysis in 2022. Similarly, according to WHO, the frequency of dialysis treatment should be 3-4 times per week, but in India, it is 2.22 treatments per week.
But not all is doom and gloom. In addition to the government’s efforts, such as the rollout of the Pradhan Mantri National Dialysis Program to expand the overall dialysis network and provide free dialysis services to the poor, the private sector is fueling the momentum of change.
The homegrown private sector solutions are trying to solve bottom-of-the-pyramid problems. For example, India’s Shark Tank featured The Renal Project, which is partnering with local hospitals in Tier 2 and 3 cities and scaling down the infrastructure for dialysis to 3-6 beds in a revenue-sharing model for the hospitals. This is similar to Vitus Care, which serves the Tier 2 and 3 kidney disease patient population, ensuring that the untapped, unserved, or at times the underserved population of Bharat also has access to the kidney care ecosystem without traveling hundreds of kilometers twice or thrice a week for dialysis. NephroPlus is another well-known name participating in the sector. Effectively, India’s kidney disease patients now have increasing options to access care.
The good news is that kidney diseases are preventable. Adopting preventive behaviors such as the right diet and lifestyle and educating ourselves about risk factors can help address the challenges early on.
According to United Kingdom’s National Health Service, simple changes such as maintaining a healthy weight, getting enough sleep, limiting alcohol intake, exploring stress-reducing activities, and making healthy food choices can go a long way. Also, if you have diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, or a family history of kidney failure, get regular checkups. Importantly, keep an eye out for symptoms such as painful urination, blood in urine, frequent urges to urinate, high blood pressure, and swelling of hands and feet because if kidney disease is found and treated early, you can help slow or even stop it from getting worse. If you notice any symptoms, or if there is anything out of the ordinary, consult a doctor.
If you are a hospital, medtech company, digital health company, pharma, or anyone with an innovative solution looking to understand more about this space in the Indian context, please feel free to connect with Frost & Sullivan at https://frost.ly/60o.