Context: Epoetin therapy for dialysis-related anemia is the single largest Medicare drug expenditure. The type of facility (profit, chain, and affiliation status) at which a patient receives dialysis might affect epoetin dosing patterns and has implications for future epoetin policies.
Objective: To examine the association between dialysis facility ownership and the dose of epoetin administered.
Design, setting, and participants: Data from the US Renal Data System were used to identify 159,522 adult Medicare-eligible, end-stage renal disease patients receiving in-center hemodialysis during November and December 2004. Regression models were used to estimate the mean epoetin dose and dose adjustment by profit, chain, and affiliation status.
Main outcome measures: Weekly mean epoetin dose administered in December 2004 and the adjustment in dose between November and December 2004.
Results: Compared with patients in nonprofit dialysis facilities (n = 28,199), patients in large for-profit dialysis chain facilities (n = 106,116) were consistently administered the highest doses of epoetin regardless of anemia status. Compared with nonprofit facilities, for-profit facilities administered, on average, an additional 3306 U/wk of epoetin. Among the 6 large chain facilities with a similar patient case-mix, the average dose of epoetin ranged from 17,832 U/wk at chain 5 (nonprofit facilities with a mean hematocrit level of 34.6%) to 24,986 U/wk at chain 2 (for-profit facilities with a mean hematocrit level of 36.5%). Dosing adjustments also differed by type of facility. On average, compared with nonprofit facilities, for-profit facilities increased epoetin doses 3-fold for patients with hematocrit levels of less 33% and also increased the doses among patients with hematocrit levels in the recommended target of 33% to 36%, especially in the largest for-profit chain facilities. The greatest difference in dosing practice patterns between facilities was found among patients with hematocrit levels of less than 33%.
Conclusions: Dialysis facility organizational status and ownership are associated with variation in epoetin dosing in the United States. Different epoetin dosing patterns suggest that large for-profit chain facilities used larger dose adjustments and targeted higher hematocrit levels.