Treatment with recombinant human erythropoietin (rHuEPO) in patients with chronic kidney disease (CKD) but not on dialysis corrects anemia, reduces the need for blood transfusions, and improves quality of life and exercise capacity, researchers concluded from a systematic review.

June D. Cody, of the University of Aberdeen, U.K., and Elisabeth M. Hodson, MD, of the Children’s Hospital at Westmead in Westmead, New South Wales, Australia, analyzed data from 19 randomized or quasi-randomized trials enrolling a total of 993 non-dialysis CKD patients. The trials compared rHuEPO either with no treatment or placebo.

Hemoglobin levels improved by a median 1.90 g/L and hematocrit improved by a median 9.85% with treatment, the investigators reported online in The Cochrane Database of Systemic Reviews. In addition, treatment was associated with a 68% decreased relative risk of requiring blood transfusions.

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The authors said they were unable to assess the effects of rHuEPO on kidney disease progression, delay in dialysis initiation, or adverse events.

“Based on the current evidence, decisions on the putative benefits in terms of quality of life are worth the extra costs of predialysis rHuEPO need careful evaluation,” the researchers concluded.