Background: Numerous randomized, controlled trials have demonstrated that recombinant human erythropoietin (rHuEPO, epoetin alfa) significantly raises hemoglobin levels, reduces transfusion requirements, and improves quality of life in anemic patients with chronic renal failure. However, this accumulation of data has yet to be systematically examined. The objectives of this meta-analysis were to quantify the effects of epoetin alfa on clinical efficacy, quality of life, hospitalizations, and transfusions by collecting and analyzing the published body of evidence.
Methods: Sixteen published studies fulfilled all inclusion criteria and were subjected to data extraction. Data specifically related to hemoglobin and/or hematocrit levels, quality-of-life measurements, number and length of hospitalizations, and number of blood transfusions were then pooled across studies using a random effects meta-analysis. Simple combined estimates of the preselected variables were calculated, and adjusted estimates were made using meta-regression.
Results: Baseline hemoglobin levels (<8 g/dL) increased substantially (40% to 50%) after epoetin alfa administration to a nonanemic state (Hb >11 g/dL) for the pooled study group. Substantial improvements (10% to 70%) were observed for all measures of quality of life. In addition, patients who received epoetin alfa had substantial reductions in hospitalization rate, hospital length of stay, transfusion rate, and number of units transfused.
Conclusion: This meta-analysis strongly suggests that epoetin alfa therapy for patients with chronic renal failure provides important clinical and quality-of-life benefits while substantially reducing hospitalizations and transfusions.