Background: Partial correction of anaemia with recombinant human erythropoietin (rHuEpo) has been shown to markedly improve the general condition and quality of life of predialysis patients, but the effects of rHuEpo therapy on blood pressure and the rate of progression of chronic renal failure (CRF) are still disputed. In particular, no study evaluated the time duration until the start of maintenance dialysis in treated patients, compared to untreated predialysis patients.
Methods: We retrospectively evaluated the rate of decline of creatinine clearance (Delta Ccr) and the duration of the predialysis period in 20 patients with advanced CRF treated with rHuEpo (Epo+ group), and in 43 patients with a similar degree of CRF but with less marked, asymptomatic anaemia, not requiring rHuEpo therapy (Epo- group). All patients were submitted to identical clinical and laboratory surveillance. All received similar oral supplementation with B(6), B(9), and B(12) vitamins and oral iron supplementation. Maintenance dose of subcutaneous epoetin was 54.3+/-16.5 U/kg/week (median dose 3300 U/week).
Results: Initial and final haemoglobin (Hb) levels were 8.8+/-0.7 and 11.3+/-0.9 g/dl in the Epo+ group, vs 10.9+/-1.2 and 9.5+/-0.9 g/dl in the Epo- group. In the Epo+ group, Delta Ccr declined from 0.36+/-0.16 during the preceding 24 months to 0.26+/-0.15 ml/min/ 1.73 m(2)/month after the start of rHuEpo therapy (P<0.05). No significant variation was observed in the Epo- group. Time duration until the start of dialysis was 16.2+/-11.9 in the Epo+ group, compared to 10.6+/-6.1 months in the Epo- group (P<0.01). Slowing of progression was observed in 10 Epo+ patients, whereas no significant variation in Delta Ccr occurred in the other 10. There was no difference in previous Delta Ccr rate, nor in Hb or blood pressure levels while on rHuEpo therapy between the two subgroups.
Conclusions: Our study affords conclusive evidence that rHuEpo therapy did not result in accelerated progression of CRF in any treated predialysis patients, nor deleterious increase in blood pressure, but instead resulted in significant slowing of progression and substantial retardation of maintenance dialysis. Such encouraging results remain to be validated in a large prospective, randomized study.