Background: This study is designed to assess the effect of early and complete correction of anemia by using recombinant human erythropoietin (epoetin) alfa on the progression of chronic kidney disease (CKD).
Methods: Patients were randomly assigned to achieve high (13 to 15 g/dL [130 to 150 g/L]) or low (11 to 12 g/dL [110 to 120 g/L]) hemoglobin-level targets during 4 months of stabilization, followed by 36 months of maintenance. Glomerular filtration rate (GFR) decrease was measured by using iohexol clearance. Quality of life, nutrition, and safety also were monitored.
Results: Because of labeling changes for subcutaneous administration of epoetin alfa (Eprex; Johnson and Johnson, Schaffhausen, Switzerland), the study was terminated prematurely. There were 195 patients enrolled in each group; 108 high-hemoglobin and 133 low-hemoglobin patients entered the maintenance phase. Mean maintenance duration was 7.4 months for the high-hemoglobin group and 8.3 months for the low-hemoglobin group. GFR decrease was numerically, but not statistically significantly, lower with the high-hemoglobin group (0.058 versus 0.081 mL/min/1.73 m2/mo [< 0.01 mL/s/1.73 m2/mo]). Physical quality-of-life measures showed trends (Role-Physical, P = 0.055; Physical Function, P = 0.083) or statistically significant improvement (Vitality, P = 0.042) with high hemoglobin levels at the end of the stabilization phase. Adverse events were similar between groups. Cardiovascular adverse events occurred in 25% of the high-hemoglobin and 18% of the low-hemoglobin patients (P = 0.137). Neither epoetin dosage nor hemoglobin level was associated with cardiovascular adverse events or death.
Conclusion: These data suggest that normalization of hemoglobin levels in patients with CKD is safe. Longer duration studies are needed to clarify efficacy benefits with high hemoglobin levels.