Inferior outcomes after kidney transplantation among African Americans are poorly understood. It was hypothesized that unequal access to medical care among transplant recipients might contribute to worse posttransplantation outcomes among Africian Americans and that racial disparities in kidney transplant outcomes would be less pronounced among patients who receive health care within versus outside the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), because eligible veterans who receive care within the VA are entitled to receive universal access to care, including coverage of prescription drugs. A study cohort of 79,361 patients who were undergoing their first kidney transplant in the United States between October 1, 1991, and October 31, 2000, was assembled, with follow-up data on graft survival obtained through October 31, 2001. After multivariable proportional hazards adjustment for a wide range of recipient and donor characteristics, African-American patients were at increased risk for graft failure compared with non-African-American patients (relative risk [RR] 1.31; 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.26 to 1.36). African-American race was associated with a similarly increased risk for graft failure among patients who were VA users (RR 1.31; 95% CI 1.11 to 1.54) and non-VA users (RR 1.31; 95% CI 1.26 to 1.36). In conclusion, racial disparities in kidney transplant outcomes seem to persist even in a universal access-to-care system such as the VA. Reasons for worse outcomes among African Americans require further investigation.
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