WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Food and Drug Administration approved a new drug Tuesday to help patients with chronic kidney failure battle a common complication: anemia.
Amgen Corp.'s Aranesp isn't a breakthrough _ it works like other anemia medications _ but it requires fewer shots each week than today's treatment.
Anemia is common in kidney failure, both in patients on dialysis and those who don't yet need dialysis. That's because their kidneys no longer produce sufficient amounts of erythropoietin, a hormone that stimulates red blood cell production.
Today, those patients can use a biologically engineered version of that hormone called epoetin, sold under the brand names Epogen and Procrit, to stimulate blood cell production.
Aranesp, known chemically as darbepoetin, is a related chemical that lasts longer in the body. So many patients who require three injections a week of epoetin might need only one injection a week of Aranesp, and those who get weekly epoetin might need Aranesp once every two weeks.
Angem said the average weekly dose for nondialysis patients will be about $100, a few dollars cheaper than comparable Epogen and Procrit doses. Dialysis patients may need customized larger or smaller doses.
Side effects of the older medications and Aranesp were similar, including blood pressure problems, said Amgen, which studied the new drug in 1,598 patients.
Aranesp is never to be prescribed for patients with uncontrolled high blood pressure, the FDA decided.
The older anemia drug epoetin also is used to treat chemotherapy-caused anemia in cancer patients, but that use of Aranesp is still experimental.