A drug commonly used to treat anemia in heart failure patients isn’t what it’s cracked up to be. Turns out, darbepoetin alfa (Aransep®), does not improve patients’ health or reduce their risk of death from heart failure.
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This news comes from the results of an international study that were presented at the American College of Cardiology’s annual meeting in March and published online by The New England Journal of Medicine.
Anemia and heart failure
Anemia, a condition in which there is not enough hemoglobin (the substance that makes it possible for the blood to transport oxygen), is a common and serious problem in patients with heart failure. In these patients, anemia can worsen quality of life, increase hospitalization rates and lead to death. So, the intravenous iron or drugs that stimulate red blood cells are used to correct anemia.
The medication did not reduce the risk of death from any cause or hospitalization for heart failure.
About the study
How effective are these drugs, and in particular, the commonly prescribed darbepoetin alfa? That’s what the study called RED-HF (Reduction of Events With Darbepoetin Alfa in Heart Failure) uncovered. The trial, which began in 2006, involved 2,278 anemic heart failure patients at 453 sites in 33 countries. Patients were randomly given darbepoetin alfa or a placebo.
In the darbepoetin alfa group, 50.7 percent of patients experienced death from any cause or hospitalization for worsening heart failure. In the placebo group, 49.5 percent of patients experienced similar outcomes.
“This landmark study provides answers to caregivers who treat patients with heart failure complicated by anemia,” says James Young, MD, cardiologist and chair of Cleveland Clinic’s Endocrinology & Metabolism Institute. Dr. Young was co-investigator of the RED-HF trial.
The study showed that taking darbepoetin alfa lead to an early and sustained increase in hemoglobin compared to the placebo. But, the medication did not reduce the risk of death from any cause or hospitalization for heart failure.
What does it all mean?
“Our findings do not support the use of darbepoetin alfa to treat anemic heat failure patients,” Dr. Young says.
So, it’s back to the drawing board. Based on this trial, researchers say more research is necessary to identify treatment options for this patient population.