The effect of i.v. iron alone or in combination with low-dose erythropoietin in the rapid correction of anemia of chronic renal failure in the predialysis period

Clin Nephrol. 2001 Mar;55(3):212-9.


Background: It is now more and more evident that anemia of predialysis chronic renal failure (CRF) should be actively treated, since long-standing anemia may cause irremediable damage to the heart. The most common form of treatment of this anemia is subcutaneous erythropoietin (EPO). iron (Fe) deficiency can also contribute to anemia in predialysis CRF, and intravenous iron (i.v. Fe) can frequently improve it. It is possible, therefore, that the combination of EPO and i.v. Fe may have an additive effect, and cause a rapid improvement in anemia with relatively small doses of EPO.

Purpose: The purpose of this study was an initial study: to assess the ability of a combination of low-dose EPO and i.v. Fe, given weekly for 5 doses, to correct the anemia of predialysis CRF patients compared to the use of i.v. Fe alone in a randomized study. In the follow-up study: to assess the ability of the maintenance of adequate iron stores for one year to achieve and maintain the target Hct of 35% with the minimum dose of EPO. Initial study:

Method: Ninety predialysis CRF patients (creatinine clearance 10-40 ml/min/1.73 m2 received either: Group A (45 patients): 200 mg i.v. Fe as Fe sucrose (Venofer, Vifor Int.) once per week for 5 doses in combination with 2,000 international units (IU) EPO (Eprex, Cilag-Janssen), subcutaneously given simultaneously also for 5 doses. Group B (45 patients): the same dose of i.v. Fe as in Group A but without EPO.

Results: The mean increase in hematocrit (Hct) and hemoglobin (Hb) by one week after the last dose was greater in group A, 4.54 +/- 2.64% (p < 0.01) and 1.37 +/- 0.84 g% (p < 0.01), respectively, than in Group B, 2.74 +/- 2.72% (p < 0.05) and 0.91 +/- 0.78 g% (p < 0.05), respectively. 80% of those in Group A had an increase in Hct of 3 vol% or more compared to 48.9% in Group B (p < 0.01). 40% of those in Group A reached the target Hct of 35% compared to 28.9% in Group B (p > 0.05). Follow-up study: During a 12-month follow-up period, enough i.v. iron was given to maintain the Hct at 35%, while keeping the serum ferritin at < 400 ug/l and % Fe Sat at < 40%. If the i.v. Fe alone was not capable of maintaining the target Hct, EPO was given in increasing doses. Eighteen patients required dialysis. Of the 72 patients who did not require dialysis, 24 (33.3%) maintained the target Hct with i.v. Fe alone, without EPO. All the remaining 48 patients (66.7%) continued to receive EPO in addition to the i.v. Fe, and 47 achieved and maintained the target Hct with a mean EPO dose of 2,979 +/- 1,326 IU/week.

Conclusion: The combination of low-dose EPO and i.v. Fe had a rapid and additive effect on the correction of anemia in CRF predialysis patients. Maintaining adequate iron stores with i.v. Fe during a subsequent maintenance phase allowed the target Hct of 35% to be reached and maintained with low-dose EPO in two-thirds of the predialysis patients and with no EPO at all in one-third.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Anemia / blood
  • Anemia / etiology
  • Anemia / therapy*
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Erythropoietin / administration & dosage*
  • Female
  • Ferric Compounds / administration & dosage*
  • Ferric Oxide, Saccharated
  • Ferritins / blood
  • Glucaric Acid
  • Hematocrit
  • Humans
  • Infusions, Intravenous
  • Injections, Subcutaneous
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / complications*
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / therapy
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Renal Dialysis*
  • Sucrose / administration & dosage*


  • Ferric Compounds
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Erythropoietin
  • Sucrose
  • Ferritins
  • Ferric Oxide, Saccharated
  • Glucaric Acid