Background: Calcium carbonate used as a phosphate binder may contribute to cardiovascular calcification. Long-term comparisons of sevelamer, a non-calcium polymeric phosphate binder, and calcium carbonate (CC) are lacking.
Methods: 114 adult hemodialysis patients were randomly assigned to open label sevelamer or CC for 52 weeks. Study efficacy endpoints included changes in serum phosphorus, calcium, calcium-phosphorus product, and lipids. In addition, initial and sequential electron beam computerized tomography scans were performed to assess cardiovascular calcification status and change during follow-up. Safety endpoints were serum biochemistry, blood cell counts and adverse events.
Results: Patients receiving sevelamer had a similar reduction in serum phosphorus as patients receiving CC (sevelamer -0.58 +/- 0.68 mmol/l, CC -0.52 +/- 0.50 mmol/l; p = 0.62). Reductions in calcium-phosphorus product were not significantly different (sevelamer -1.4 +/- 1.7 mmol2/l2, CC -0.9 +/- 1.2 mmol2/l2; p = 0.12). CC produced significantly more hypercalcemia (> 2.8 mmol/l in 0% sevelamer and 19% CC patients, p < 0.01) and suppressed intact parathyroid hormone below 150 pg/ml in the majority of patients. Sevelamer patients experienced significant (p < 0.01) reductions in total (-1.2 +/- 0.9 mmol/l, -24%) and LDL cholesterol (-1.2 +/- 0.9 mmol/l, -30%). CC patients had significant increases in coronary artery (median +34%, p < 0.01) and aortic calcification (median +32%, p < 0.01) that were not observed in sevelamer-treated patients. Patients on sevelamer required more grams of binder (sevelamer 5.9 g vs. CC 3.9 g) and experienced more dyspepsia than patients on calcium carbonate.
Conclusions: Sevelamer is an effective phosphate binder that unlike calcium carbonate is not associated with progressive cardiovascular calcification in hemodialysis patients.