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Anaemia drug for kidney disease

19th October 2010

Patients whose kidneys are failing should stay on anemia drugs, according to a US panel of health experts.

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Fifteen members of the panel voted to keep recommending the high-grossing drugs, and one member voted against recommending them.

Although there is no law stating that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) must follow the advice of the panel, common practice means it is likely to.

The new recommendation comes after a few studies showed that the drugs may not be safe for people to use.

The drugs in question are known as Procrit, Aranesp, and Epogen, and are all produced by California-based biotech drugmaker Amgen Inc.

The drugs sell well because they can reduce the urgency of the need for blood transfusions.

However, a 2007 study showed that the drugs also hastened death in cancer patients, in addition to helping tumours grow, and another study last year showed that there were stroke risks for kidney patients taking the drugs.

The drugs are useful for doctors treating kidney patients because they help the body to regulate its haemoglobin levels.

Haemoglobin is a molecule found in the blood that carries oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body.

In patients with kidney failure, haemoglobin function is weakened, a condition known as anaemia.

The drugs in question currently keep patients' haemoglobin levels between 10 and 12 grams per deciliter, and the panel also voted against recommending that people take smaller doses of the drugs.

Judith Hochman of the New York University School of Medicine said she believed that the amount recommended on the drug's label should be adjusted, but that there was not currently enough information to warrant an immediate change.


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