Dialysis firms defend anemia drug use along ethnic lines

Citing data suggesting that African-American patients need more of the drug, the kidney dialysis industry has begun to argue that limits on its use of Amgen's Epogen could harm patients. According to the U.S. Renal Data System, African-American patients in 2004 got 20,633 doses of Epogen per week, as compared with 17,806 doses for Caucasian patients. The firms are using this data to fight possible limits on Medicare reimbursement for Epogen, limits which have already been proposed in legislation which has already been passed by the House of Representatives.

The firms are fighting back in the face of research questioning Epogen use patterns, including a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association which suggested that patients in for-profit dialysis chains routinely get higher doses of the drug. Critics note that such doses can boost red blood cells above FDA levels, and can also increase risk for death and heart attacks.

To learn more about the Epogen debate:
- read this Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report article

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