Anemia drugs Epoetin and Procrit kill
A new study in the New England Journal of Medicine says that a trio
of blockbuster anemia drugs are linked with a higher risk for heart problems and death. The researchers divided patients into
two groups: one receiving doses of epoetin to correct symptoms of anemia and one that was allowed to remain more anemic on
lower doses. Patients taking the higher doses were 34 percent more likely to develop heart problems. The study was prompted
by the steadily higher doses of epoetin that patients receive during dialysis. Centers
providing treatment now receive the bulk of their income from the drugs and not from the actual dialysis, and doses have tripled
since the 1990s. About 22 percent of dialysis patients in the United States die every year, compared with about 15 percent in Europe. Amgen and J&J
market the drug as Epogen, Procrit and Aranesp with revenue last year of more than $9 billion.
Worldwide, sales of the two drugs - sold under the brand names Epogen, Procrit and Aranesp - exceeded $9 billion in
2005 for Amgen and Johnson & Johnson, their makers. Johnson & Johnson,
which sells epoetin under the brand names Procrit in the United States and Eprex everywhere else, reported sales of $2.4 billion in
the first nine months of 2006, down slightly from 2005.
The study tested anemia in kidney patients who did not yet need dialysis, a mechanical blood-filtering technique used
to keep alive patients whose kidneys have almost entirely failed. But its findings should apply to patients on dialysis as