Sodium-glucose cotransporter 2 (SGLT2) inhibitors have been attracting attention for cardiovascular as well as antidiabetic effects since the results of the Empagliflozin Cardiovascular Outcome Event Trial in Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus Patients (EMPA-REG OUTCOME Trial) were reported. The hematocrit increases during treatment with SGLT2 inhibitors, which have a diuretic effect but do not cause sufficient hemoconcentration to increase the risk of cerebral infarction. Elevation of the hematocrit during SGLT2 inhibitor therapy is presumed to involve enhancement of erythropoiesis in addition to hemoconcentration. In patients with diabetes, the erythropoietin level increases after initiation of treatment with the SGLT2 inhibitor dapagliflozin and reaches a plateau in 2 - 4 weeks. The reticulocyte count increases simultaneously, followed by elevation of hemoglobin and hematocrit. In patients with diabetes, the proximal tubules are overtaxed by excessive glucose reabsorption and the increased oxygen requirement causes tubulointerstitial hypoxia. Consequently, erythropoietin production is impaired because "neural crest-derived" fibroblasts surrounding the damaged renal tubules undergo transformation into dysfunctional fibroblasts. SGLT2 inhibitors reduce the workload of the proximal tubules and improve tubulointerstitial hypoxia, allowing fibroblasts to resume normal erythropoietin production. These drugs represent a new class of diuretics that have a renoprotective effect by improving tubulointerstitial hypoxia, which is the final common pathway to end-stage renal disease. In patients with diabetes, elevation of hematocrit may be a surrogate marker for recovery from reversible tubulointerstitial injury.
Keywords: Antidiabetic agent; Cardiovascular medication; Hematocrit; Renoprotective effect; Reversible tubulointerstitial injury; SGLT2 inhibitor; Type 2 diabetes.