Background: Anemia commonly complicates chronic kidney disease (CKD). Treating anemia of CKD with erythropoiesis-stimulating agents (ESAs) may attenuate cardiovascular and renal sequelae, reducing morbidity, mortality, and healthcare costs.
Objective: To compare clinical outcomes, healthcare utilization, and costs in ESA-treated and untreated patients with anemia of CKD who are not on dialysis.
Methods: This retrospective claims analysis considered more than 13 million US health plan members for outpatient, inpatient, emergency department, and prescription experience. Eligible patients were aged 15 years or older with 2 or more ICD-9 diagnoses of CKD or 1 or more CKD diagnosis and 1 or more claims for ESA within 12 months. The first CKD diagnosis within the study period (January 1, 2000-December 31, 2003) defined the index date. Anemia was ascertained by ICD-9 codes or ESA claims on or after the CKD index date. Patients were censored for dialysis, transplant, inpatient death, disenrollment, or study end. Utilization and costs per patient per month were compared between ESA and non-ESA patients. Generalized linear modeling identified predictors of total and anemia-related costs.
Results: Of 26,244 patients with CKD, 8188 (31.2%) had anemia; of those, only 14.6% (n = 1197) received ESAs. ESA recipients had lower total monthly healthcare costs than did untreated anemic patients ($3876 vs $4758; p = 0.0061). Lower monthly inpatient and emergency department costs in treated versus untreated anemic patients ($2507 vs $3849 and $46.56 vs $81, respectively; both p < 0.0001) outweighed higher outpatient and laboratory costs from ESA use ($602 vs $397 and $23.50 vs $14.34, respectively; both p < 0.0001). Multivariate analysis revealed that ESA users had lower adjusted monthly total costs ($2962 vs $3373) compared with non-ESA patients.
Conclusions: ESA use was associated with mean total cost savings of $411 per patient per month, reflecting reduced inpatient and emergency department visits and costs, and with lower inpatient mortality and longer time to dialysis. The low (14.6%) ESA treatment rate for anemia highlights the continuing deficit in CKD care.