Erythropoiesis-stimulating agents for anaemia in adults with chronic kidney disease: a network meta-analysis

Edmund Y.M. Chung, Suetonia C. Palmer, Valeria M. Saglimbene, Jonathan C. Craig, Marcello Tonelli, Giovanni F.M. Strippoli

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Background: Erythropoiesis-stimulating agents (ESAs) are commonly used to treat anaemia in people with chronic kidney disease (CKD). However, their use has been associated with cardiovascular events. This is an update of a Cochrane review first published in 2014. 

Objectives: To compare the efficacy and safety of ESAs (epoetin alfa, epoetin beta, darbepoetin alfa, methoxy polyethylene glycol-epoetin beta, and biosimilar ESAs against each other, placebo, or no treatment) to treat anaemia in adults with CKD. 

Search methods: In this update, we searched the Cochrane Kidney and Transplant Register of Studies up to 29 April 2022 through contact with the Information Specialist using search terms relevant to this review. Studies in the Register are identified through searches of CENTRAL, MEDLINE, and EMBASE, conference proceedings, the International Clinical Trials Register (ICTRP) Search Portal and ClinicalTrials.gov. 

Selection criteria: Randomised controlled trials (RCTs) that included a comparison of an ESA (epoetin alfa, epoetin beta, darbepoetin alfa, methoxy polyethylene glycol-epoetin beta, a biosimilar epoetin or a biosimilar darbepoetin alfa) with another ESA, placebo or no treatment in adults with CKD were considered for inclusion.

Data collection and analysis: Two independent authors screened the search results and extracted data. Data synthesis was performed using random-effects pairwise meta-analysis (expressed as odds ratios (OR) and their 95% confidence intervals (CI)) and network meta-analysis. We assessed for heterogeneity and inconsistency within meta-analyses using standard techniques and planned subgroup and meta-regression to explore sources of heterogeneity or inconsistency. We assessed certainty in treatment estimates for the primary outcomes (preventing blood transfusions and death (any cause)) using the Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development and Evaluation (GRADE) approach. 

Main results: Sixty-two new studies (9237 participants) were included in this update, so the review now includes 117 studies with 25,237 participants. Most studies were at high or unclear risk of bias in most methodological domains. Overall, results remain similar in this update compared to our previous review in 2014. For preventing blood transfusion, epoetin alfa (OR 0.28, 95% CI 0.13 to 0.61; low certainty evidence) and epoetin beta (OR 0.19, 95% CI 0.08 to 0.47; low certainty evidence) may be superior to placebo, and darbepoetin alfa was probably superior to placebo (OR 0.27, 95% CI 0.11 to 0.67; moderate certainty evidence). Methoxy polyethylene glycol-epoetin beta (OR 0.33, 95% CI 0.11 to 1.02; very low certainty evidence), a biosimilar epoetin (OR 0.34, 95% CI 0.11 to 1.03; very low certainty evidence) and a biosimilar darbepoetin alfa (OR 0.37, 95% CI 0.07 to 1.91; very low certainty evidence) had uncertain effects on preventing blood transfusion compared to placebo. The comparative effects of ESAs compared with another ESA on preventing blood transfusions were uncertain, in low to very low certainty evidence. Effects on death (any cause) were uncertain for epoetin alfa (OR 0.79, 95% CI 0.51 to 1.22; low certainty evidence), epoetin beta (OR 0.69, 95% CI 0.40 to 1.20; low certainty evidence), methoxy polyethylene glycol-epoetin beta (OR 1.07, 95% CI 0.67 to 1.71; very low certainty evidence), a biosimilar epoetin (OR 0.80, 95% CI 0.47 to 1.36; low certainty evidence) and a biosimilar darbepoetin alfa (OR 1.63, 95% CI 0.51 to 5.23; very low certainty evidence) compared to placebo. There was probably no difference between darbepoetin alfa and placebo on the odds of death (any cause) (OR 0.99, 95% CI 0.81 to 1.21; moderate certainty evidence). The comparative effects of ESAs compared with another ESA on death (any cause) were uncertain in low to very low certainty evidence. Epoetin beta probably increased the odds of hypertension when compared to placebo (OR 2.17, 95% CI 1.17 to 4.00; moderate certainty evidence). Compared to placebo, epoetin alfa (OR 2.10, 95% CI 1.22 to 3.59; very low certainty evidence), darbepoetin alfa (OR 1.88, 95% CI 1.12 to 3.14; low certainty evidence) and methoxy polyethylene glycol-epoetin beta (OR 1.98, 95% CI 1.05 to 3.74; low certainty evidence) may increase the odds of hypertension, but a biosimilar epoetin (OR 1.88, 95% CI 0.96 to 3.67; low certainty evidence) and biosimilar darbepoetin alfa (OR 1.98, 95% CI 0.84 to 4.66; low certainty evidence) had uncertain effects on hypertension. The comparative effects of all ESAs compared with another ESA, placebo or no treatment on cardiovascular death, myocardial infarction, stroke, vascular access thrombosis, kidney failure, and breathlessness were uncertain. Network analysis for fatigue was not possible due to sparse data. 

Authors' conclusions: The comparative effects of different ESAs on blood transfusions, death (any cause and cardiovascular), major cardiovascular events, myocardial infarction, stroke, vascular access thrombosis, kidney failure, fatigue and breathlessness were uncertain.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberCD010590
Number of pages295
JournalCochrane Database of Systematic Reviews
Volume2023
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 13 Feb 2023

Keywords

  • Anaemia
  • Chronic kidney disease (CKD)
  • Erythropoiesis-stimulating agents (ESAs)

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