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Anemia Drugs Associated with Higher Risk of Death, Heart Attack and Stroke

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Three anemia drugs were the subject of a recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine which concluded that there was a higher chance of death, heart attack, hospitalizations for heart failure and stroke in patients with chronic kidney disease who are not on dialysis and were treated with Procrit to raise their hemoglobin levels higher than what the labeling for the product recommends. Procrit is an erythropoiesis-stimulating agent (ESA), also known as recombinant human erythropoietin. Other ESA’s include Epogen and Aranesp. The drugs increase blood hemoglobin levels, the part of the blood that carries oxygen, by increasing the number of red blood cells in the bodies of certain anemia patients.

Healthcare professionals are advised by the FDA to be familiar with the recommendations in the product labeling to maintain hemoglobin levels between 10 to 12 g/dL. Patients are advised to keep appointments for blood tests to monitor hemoglobin levels, and to advise their doctors if they feel any worsening in shortness of breath, pain or swelling in the legs, or increases in blood pressure.