Background: Anaemia is common in patients with chronic heart failure (HF), and erythropoiesis stimulating proteins (ESPs) are frequently used for its treatment. However, recent studies in patients with malignancies and renal failure have raised concerns about the safety of these agents.
Objective: To determine whether treatment of anaemic patients with chronic HF with ESPs is associated with an effect on morbidity and mortality.
Data sources: A systematic literature search in Medline, the Cochrane Controlled Trials Register Database and ClinicalTrials.gov through July 2008 was performed.
Study selection: Randomised clinical trials comparing the effect of ESP treatment with placebo or usual care in anaemic patients with HF were included.
Results: Seven randomised controlled trials were identified that enrolled 650 patients, of whom 363 were treated with ESPs and 287 with placebo. ESP treatment had a significantly lower risk of HF hospitalisation (risk ratio (RR) = 0.59; 95% CI 0.41 to 0.86; p = 0.006).There was no significant difference in the mortality risk between the two groups (RR = 0.69; 95% CI 0.39 to 1.23; p = 0.21). No significant differences were observed in the occurrence of hypertension or venous thrombosis.
Conclusions: In chronic HF, treatment with ESPs is not associated with a higher mortality rate or more adverse events, whereas a beneficial effect on HF hospitalisation is seen. These outcomes are in contrast with studies in cancer and kidney disease, and support a large phase III morbidity and mortality trial of anaemia correction in patients with chronic HF.
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Funding: This work was supported by the Netherlands Heart Foundation (D97-017 to DJvV) and The Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (Rubicon grant: 825-07-011 to PvdM). The funding source did not have any influence on the conduction and interpretation of the study.
Competing interests: PvdM and DJvV received speaker’s fees from Amgen Inc and Roche Inc, both erythropoiesis-stimulating protein manufacturing companies. DJvV is a member of the Executive Committee of RED-HF.
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