MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Dr. John Najarian, who transformed the field of organ transplant surgery, died on Tuesday morning.
Najarian was known for making organ transplants a routine procedure, especially for young children. Among his patients was Jamie Fiske, who as an infant in 1982, received a liver transplant at the University of Minnesota. Her case led to the development of a national system of organ procurement to match donors to recipients.
Though he initially started his career in California, Najarian moved to the University of Minnesota in 1967 to chair their Department of Surgery. There, he helped develop the drug antilymphocyte globulin (ALG), which is used to treat rejection during organ transplants. At the time, it increased patient survival by 10%.
However, in 1995, he was indicted by the FDA in relation to the widely-used drug. He was accused of concealing the deaths of nine patients and selling $79 million of ALG. At the time, the drug was experimental, and had not been approved by the FDA. Some patients were never told of ALG’s experimental status. However, Najarian was acquitted of all charges; medical experts and patients questioned the regulatory motives of the FDA, saying that some had lost sight of how effective the drug was.
Najarian died at the age of 92.