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Erythropoietin appears safe for heart failure patients

Reuters Health • The Doctor's Channel Daily Newscast

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – A meta-analysis of trial data suggests that erythropoietin can be safely used to treat anemia in patients with chronic heart failure and may help prevent hospitalization.

Studies of erythropoietin use in patients with kidney disease and cancer raised concerns that this therapy may not be safe in patients with chronic heart failure. In particular, erythropoietin use in patients with kidney disease has been linked to cardiovascular events, while in cancer patients, an increased risk of mortality and thromboembolism was seen.

To assess the effects of erythropoiesis-stimulating proteins (ESPs) in patients with chronic heart failure, Dr. P. van der Meer and colleagues conducted a meta-analysis of data from seven trials comparing ESP use with placebo or usual care. Of the 650 patients in the analysis, 363 received ESPs and 287 were given placebo.

Dr. van der Meer, from University Medical Centre Groningen, the Netherlands, and co-authors report their findings in the August 15th issue of Heart.

No significant differences were noted between ESP-treated patients and controls in terms of mortality or rates of hypertension and venous thrombosis, the report indicates.

Moreover, the results show that ESP-treated patients were 41% less likely to require hospitalization than were controls: 10.2% vs. 19.5% (p = 0.006).

“These outcomes,” the authors conclude, “are in contrast with studies in cancer and kidney disease, and support a large phase III morbidity and mortality trial of anemia correction in patients with chronic heart failure.”

Heart 2009;95:1309-1314.