Comparative Safety of Long-Acting vs. Short-Acting Erythropoiesis-Stimulating Agents Among Patients Undergoing Hemodialysis

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Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics


Both short-acting (epoetin alfa or beta) and long-acting (darbepoetin alfa or PEG-epoetin) erythropoiesis-stimulating agents (ESAs) are commonly prescribed for patients with kidney failure undergoing maintenance hemodialysis. We compared the risks of major adverse cardiovascular events (MACE) and of all-cause mortality associated with receipt of short- vs. long-acting ESAs. This retrospective cohort analysis included Medicare hemodialysis beneficiaries aged ≥ 18 years in the United States Renal Data System from January 2015 to December 2017. We included adults who survived > 90 days after initiating hemodialysis and received either short- or long-acting ESAs. Outcomes were MACE (first occurrence of stroke, acute myocardial infarction, or cardiovascular-related mortality) and all-cause mortality. After stabilized inverse probability of treatment weighting, Cox proportional hazards regression models were used to estimate the hazard ratio (HR) and 95% confidence interval (CI) for each outcome. Of 68,607 patients (mean age: 65 years, 45% females), 33,658 (49%) received long-acting ESAs and 34,949 (51%) received short-acting ESAs. There was no difference in the risk of MACE associated with receipt of short- vs. long-acting ESAs (HR: 1.02 (95% CI: 0.98–1.08)). However, long-acting (vs. short-acting) ESA receipt was associated with a lower risk of all-cause mortality (HR: 0.91 (95% CI: 0.87–0.96)). Compared with short-acting ESAs, long-acting ESAs were associated with a lower risk of all-cause mortality, with no difference in the risk of MACE. Future studies with a longer follow-up are needed to confirm these findings.

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