Erythropoietin use and abuse

Indian J Endocrinol Metab. 2012 Mar;16(2):220-7. doi: 10.4103/2230-8210.93739.


Recombinant human erythropoietin (rhEPO) is arguably the most successful therapeutic application of recombinant DNA technology till date. It was isolated in 1977 and the gene decoded in 1985. Since then, it has found varied applications, especially in stimulating erythropoiesis in anemia due to chronic conditions like renal failure, myelodysplasia, infections like HIV, in prematurity, and in reducing peri-operative blood transfusions. The discovery of erythropoietin receptor (EPO-R) and its presence in non-erythroid cells has led to several areas of research. Various types of rhEPO are commercially available today with different dosage schedules and modes of delivery. Their efficacy in stimulating erythropoiesis is dose dependent and differs according to the patient's disease and nutritional status. EPO should be used carefully according to guidelines as unsolicited use can result in serious adverse effects. Because of its capacity to improve oxygenation, it has been abused by athletes participating in endurance sports and detecting this has proved to be a challenge.

Keywords: Abuse; continuous erythropoietin receptor activator; darbepoetin; erythropoietin.