Erythropoiesis-stimulating agents increase risk of death and blood clots in cancer patients

Widely used erythropoiesis-stimulating agents (ESA) for anemia treatment raise the risk of death among cancer patients by about 10%, according to a new meta-analysis published in JAMA. The study also found a 57% increase in the risk of venous thromboembolism, a known side effect of ESAs.

The findings raise concern about the safety of ESA administration to patients with cancer in addition to the concerns we already have about ESA use in CKD and ESRD patients.

In 2007, the FDA added a black box warning to the labels of all currently available ESA due to increase in serious side effects and greater number of deaths in patients treated with these agents.

Correct Anemia in Chronic Kidney Disease Up To a Point
Death Risk Found From Anemia Drugs. NYTimes.
Venous Thromboembolism and Mortality Associated With Recombinant Erythropoietin and Darbepoetin Administration for the Treatment of Cancer-Associated Anemia. Charles L. Bennett at al. JAMA. 2008;299(8):914-924.
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