CVS Health to target chronic kidney disease

CVS Health will begin tackling kidney disease in a new initiative aimed at improving patient outcomes and curbing the costly health implications of the chronic health condition, officials said.

CVS's early focus with the initiative will prioritize early diagnosis of the disease and the expansion of home dialysis, according to a company statement. They also plan to work on development of a new hemodialysis device designed for in-home use. The company plans to start a pivotal clinical trial to support its FDA submission for market clearance. 

According to Joseph Vassalotti, M.D., chief medical officer at the National Kidney Foundation, a lack of patient education has limited opportunities to catch chronic kidney disease early enough to avoid serious complications, such as kidney failure or cardiovascular issues.

“There is an urgent need to increase patient awareness of not only the disease itself but also of the treatment options available for both early and chronic kidney failure or end-stage renal disease,” he said.

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Part of the rationale put forward for the recently approved CVS-Aetna merger involved a shift toward a more patient-centric focus. CVS officials saw an opportunity for the company to become a “positive disruptor” in the end stage renal disease space based upon the breadth of experience within the organization, said Alan Lotvin, M.D., executive vice president and head of CVS Specialty.

He cites complex patient home care provided by Coram CVS Specialty Infusion Services, payor relationships managed by CVS Caremark, and chronic disease management capabilities at both CVS Specialty and CVS Caremark-owned Accordant as major assets in developing a strategy in the space.

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Nearly 700,000 Americans have end stage renal disease, which costs Medicare almost $65 billion a year for chronic kidney disease care and an additional $34 billion related to dialysis patient care, according to the company’s figures.

High mortality rates among the Medicare population receiving in-center hemodialysis presents an opportunity to develop in-home treatment, which CVS Specialty Chief Medical Officer Bruce Culleton, M.D., said makes it easier to deliver the longer, more-frequent treatments clinically shown to improve cardiac health, metabolic control and survival.