Background: Anemia almost invariably develops in patients with chronic renal insufficiency (CRI) and is associated with a wide range of complications. The anemia of CRI can be effectively treated with recombinant human erythropoietin (rHuEPO). Recent studies suggest that the management of anemia of CRI is suboptimal in the United States.
Methods: We examined the trends in hematocrit and rHuEPO use among all patients who started chronic dialysis therapy between April 1, 1995, and December 31, 1999, from the End-stage Renal Disease Medical Evidence Form 2728 submitted to the Health Care Financing Administration of the United States. Follow-up data containing hematocrit levels after initiation were obtained from the Medicare Part A institutional outpatient dialysis provider claims for 1990 to 1998 prevalent patients.
Results: From June 1995 to June 1999, the mean hematocrit at initiation of dialysis increased from 28.1 to 29.3%. Likewise, the annual percentage of patients receiving pre-dialysis rHuEPO increased from 21.8 to 28.1%. Patients receiving predialysis rHuEPO had a higher mean hematocrit than patients without predialysis rHuEPO. The annual percentage of patients with hematocrit <24% fell 6.6% and the percentage with hematocrit > or =30% increased 9.2%. The trend toward higher hematocrit levels has been consistent across all age, gender, and race categories. Older patients, males, whites, and those who selected peritoneal dialysis had higher hematocrit levels than their counterparts. There were significant geographic differences in the prevalence of predialysis rHuEPO use.
Conclusion: There has been a slight improvement in the management of anemia of CRI in the United States. However, a considerable fraction of patients still have hematocrit levels that are significantly lower than the currently recommended target. Furthermore, improvement in the management of anemia could result in improved clinical outcomes among patients with CRI.