An economic evaluation of erythropoiesis-stimulating agents in CKD

Am J Kidney Dis. 2010 Dec;56(6):1050-61. doi: 10.1053/j.ajkd.2010.07.015. Epub 2010 Oct 8.


Background: The objective was to determine the cost-effectiveness of treating anemic patients with chronic kidney disease (CKD) with erythropoiesis-stimulating agents (ESAs) to a low (9-10.9 g/dL), intermediate (11-12 g/dL), or high (> 12 g/dL) hemoglobin level target compared with a strategy of managing anemia without ESAs.

Study design: Cost-utility analysis.

Setting & participants: Publicly funded health care system. Anemic patients with CKD, overall and stratified into dialysis-/non-dialysis-dependent subgroups.

Model, perspective, & timeframe: Decision analysis, health care payer, patient's lifetime.

Main outcome: Cost per quality-adjusted life-year (QALY) gained.

Results: For dialysis patients, compared with anemia management without ESAs, using ESAs to target a low hemoglobin level is associated with a cost per QALY of $96,270. Given a lack of direct trials comparing low and intermediate targets, significant uncertainty exists between these strategies. Treatment to a high hemoglobin target was always associated with worse clinical outcomes and higher costs compared with a low hemoglobin target. Results were similar in non-dialysis-dependent patients with CKD, with a cost per QALY for a low target compared with no ESA of $147,980.

Limitations: Given limitations in the available randomized controlled trials, we were able to model only 4 treatment strategies, balancing the need to consider relevant targets with the requirement for accurate estimates of clinical effect. We assumed that the efficacy of the different strategies would continue over a patient's lifetime.

Conclusions: Using ESAs to target a hemoglobin level > 12 g/dL is associated with worse clinical outcomes and significant additional cost compared with using ESAs to target lower hemoglobin levels (9-12 g/dL). Given a lack of studies comparing low (9-10.9 g/dL) and intermediate (11-12 g/dL) hemoglobin targets for clinical outcomes, including quality of life, the most cost-effective hemoglobin level target within the range of 9-12 g/dL is uncertain, although aiming for higher targets within this range will lead to higher costs.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Anemia / blood
  • Anemia / drug therapy*
  • Anemia / etiology*
  • Chronic Disease
  • Cohort Studies
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Decision Support Techniques
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Erythropoietin / agonists
  • Female
  • Hematinics / economics
  • Hematinics / therapeutic use*
  • Hemoglobins / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Kidney Diseases / complications*
  • Kidney Diseases / therapy
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Quality-Adjusted Life Years
  • Renal Dialysis


  • Hematinics
  • Hemoglobins
  • Erythropoietin