Erythropoiesis-stimulating agents (ESAs) increase hemoglobin levels, reduce transfusion requirements, and have been the standard of treatment for anemia in patients with chronic kidney disease (CKD) since 1989. Many safety concerns have emerged regarding the use of ESAs, including an increased occurrence of cardiovascular events and vascular access thrombosis. Hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF) prolyl hydroxylase (PH) enzyme inhibitors are a new class of agents for the treatment of anemia in CKD. These agents work by stabilizing the HIF complex and stimulating endogenous erythropoietin production even in patients with end-stage kidney disease. HIF-PH inhibitors improve iron mobilization to the bone marrow. They are administered orally, which may be a more favorable route for patients not undergoing hemodialysis. By inducing considerably lower but more consistent blood erythropoietin levels than ESAs, HIF-PH inhibitors may be associated with fewer adverse cardiovascular effects at comparable hemoglobin levels, although this has yet to be proved in long-term clinical trials. One significant concern regarding the long-term use of these agents is their possible effect on tumor growth. There are 4 such agents undergoing phase 2 and 3 clinical trials in the United States; this report provides a focused review of HIF-PH inhibitors and their potential clinical utility in the management of anemia of CKD.
Keywords: Anemia; chronic kidney disease (CKD); daprodustat; erythropoietin; functional iron deficiency; hemoglobin; hypoxia; hypoxia-inducible factor prolyl hydroxylase inhibitor; molidustat; review; roxadustat; vadadustat.
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