Health regulators are suggesting that doctors lower the prescribed doses of anemia drugs when treating patients with kidney failure due to the increased risk for stroke, blood clots and death. The suggestion was prompted by a 2009 study in which use of the blockbuster drugs — Procrit, Aranesp and Epogen — could potentially double a patient’s risk of having a stroke. The FDA’s warning is the latest to hit the medications since 2007, when the agency first linked use of the drugs to fatal side effects.

The drugs, which are manufactured by biotech giant, Amgen Inc., are multibillion-dollar sellers due to their ability to boost oxygen-carrying red blood cells, thus reducing the need for patients to endure painful transfusions. Doctors had assumed that prescribing higher doses of the drugs would help prevent heart attacks and other cardiovascular problems. However, following warnings linking the drugs to a heightened risk for stroke, doctors must now adjust each patient’s dosing to maintain healthy hemoglobin levels. The intended goal being to individualize therapy and use the lowest possible dose of the drugs.

It is important to note that the FDA’s announcement applies to patients with early-stage kidney failure, as well as those patients currently on dialysis for the treatment of late-stage kidney failure.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 20 million people in the United States have chronic kidney disease.


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