Dialysis Industry Cites Racial Disparities in Marketing Anemia Drugs
The kidney dialysis industry has begun to highlight concerns about racial disparities to "fend off criticism that it fattens profits by overprescribing an anemia drug" -- Epogen, manufactured by Amgen -- that can increase risk for death and heart attacks when administered at high doses, the Wall Street Journal reports. According to the Journal, the industry has begun "playing up the fact" that black patients often require higher doses of Epogen and would "suffer disproportionately from any curbs" on Medicare reimbursements for the medication as proposed in legislation recently passed by the House.
The industry has cited data from the U.S. Renal Data System, which has found that black patients in 2004 received 20,633 doses of Epogen per week, compared with 17,806 doses per week for white patients. No definitive studies exist on the reason why black patients require higher doses of Epogen, but some experts cite the high rates of obesity, hypertension, diabetes and poverty among black patients (Johnson, Wall Street Journal, 9/11).