Benefits and Harms of Phosphate Binders in CKD: A Systematic Review of Randomized Controlled Trials

Sankar D. Navaneethan, Suetonia C. Palmer, Jonathan C. Craig, Grahame J. Elder, Giovanni F.M. Strippoli

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

142 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Phosphate binders are widely used to control serum phosphorus levels in patients with chronic kidney disease (CKD). We analyzed the effects of phosphate binders on biochemical and patient-level end points in patients with CKD. Study Design: Systematic review and meta-analysis by searching MEDLINE (1966 to April 2009), EMBASE (1980 to April 2009), and the Cochrane Renal Group Specialised Register and the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL). Setting & Population: Patients with CKD. Selection Criteria for Studies: Randomized controlled trials. Intervention: Phosphate binders. Outcomes: Serum phosphorus, calcium, and parathyroid hormone levels; incidence of hypercalcemia; all-cause mortality; adverse effects. Results: 40 trials (6,406 patients) were included. There was no significant decrease in all-cause mortality (10 randomized controlled trials; 3,079 patients; relative risk [RR], 0.73; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.46 to 1.16), hospitalization, or end-of-treatment serum calcium-phosphorus product levels with sevelamer compared with calcium-based agents. There was a significant decrease in end-of-treatment phosphorus and parathyroid hormone levels with calcium salts compared with sevelamer and a significant decrease in risk of hypercalcemia (RR, 0.47; 95% CI, 0.36 to 0.62) with sevelamer compared with calcium-based agents. There was a significant increase in risk of gastrointestinal adverse events with sevelamer in comparison to calcium salts (RR, 1.39; 95% CI, 1.04 to 1.87). Compared with calcium-based agents, lanthanum significantly decreased end-of-treatment serum calcium and calcium-phosphorus product levels, but with similar end-of-treatment phosphorus levels. Effects of calcium acetate on biochemical end points were similar to those of calcium carbonate. Existing data are insufficient to conclude for a differential impact of any phosphate binder on cardiovascular mortality or other patient-level outcome. Limitations: Few long-term studies of the efficacy of phosphate binders on mortality and musculoskeletal morbidity, significant heterogeneity for many surrogate outcomes, and suboptimal reporting of study methods to determine trial quality. Conclusion: Currently, there are insufficient data to establish the comparative superiority of non-calcium-binding agents over calcium-containing phosphate binders for such important patient-level outcomes as all-cause mortality and cardiovascular end points. Additional trials are still required to examine the differential effects of phosphate-binding agents on these end points and the mineral homeostasis pathway.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)619-637
Number of pages19
JournalAmerican Journal of Kidney Diseases
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • bone disease
  • calcification
  • chronic kidney disease
  • hyperphosphatemia
  • Phosphate binders


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