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New drug linked to fewer deaths among kidney patients undergoing hemodialysis

CHAPEL HILL - University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill researchers report a 50 percent reduction in the number of deaths among kidney hemodialysis patients who are given a new drug that helps prevent excess phosphorus from accumulating in the bloodstream. "The drug, lanthanum carbonate, is effective. It's well-tolerated, and patients find it reasonably easy to take," said Dr. William Finn, nephrologist and professor of medicine at UNC.

Study findings will be presented Saturday (Nov. 2) at the American Society of Nephrology annual meeting in Philadelphia. More than 350,000 people in the United States receive treatment for kidney failure, or end-stage renal disease, according to the National Institutes of Health. Of these, about 60 percent undergo hemodialysis, a process that removes wastes and excess fluid from the bloodstream by passing it through a membrane in an artificial kidney machine.

Although regular hemodialysis treatment helps maintain life, studies show it provides about a tenth of the cleaning function of normal kidneys. Moreover, those on the treatment run an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and other medical problems. "One of the things hemodialysis does not do well is remove phosphorus from the blood," Finn said. "About 50 to 60 percent of patients on chronic hemodialysis do not have adequate phosphorus control; they have high phosphorus levels."

Finn added that elevated blood levels of phosphorus help trigger hyperparathyroidism, a condition that may lead to serious bone and cardiovascular problems. Some research indicates an increased risk for cardiac death possibly due to a buildup of calcium in coronary blood vessels.

Moreover, beginning in 1998, reports in medical literature have identified elevated phosphorus blood levels as independent risk factors for mortality among kidney patients on hemodialysis. The National Kidney Foundation has subsequently lowered its recommended phosphorus blood levels.

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Contact: Leslie H. Lang
llang@med.unc.edu
919-843-9687
University of North Carolina School of Medicine
2-Nov-2002


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