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Will New Anemia Drug Top Current Treatments?
Date:11/4/2009

Designed for a rare condition, it might have a wider application, experts say

WEDNESDAY, Nov. 4 (HealthDay News) -- A new drug designed to treat patients with a rare form of anemia could possibly have wider applications, perhaps replacing other anemia treatments that have been linked to an increased risk of death, cancer and stroke, experts say.

The drug, Hematide, was successful in treating patients who have pure red-cell aplasia, a condition caused by antibodies to a hormone needed to produce red blood cells. It's a "devastating condition that many patients have died from and ties patients to blood transfusions every two weeks for the rest of their life," said lead researcher Dr. Iain C. Macdougall, from King's College Hospital, London.

But the real breakthrough is being able to make drugs in a new way that could have wide application for many diseases, he said.

"It is possible to create drugs that are cheaper and simpler to make," he said. "The question is whether all expensive protein therapeutics can get peptide mimetics. This is what we call a peptide mimetic -- it mimics the protein," he said.

The report is published in the Nov. 5 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

For the study, Macdougall's group treated 14 patients with chronic kidney disease who were anemic because of antibodies that prevented other anemia treatments from making red blood cells.

Twelve weeks after the first dose of Hematide, a synthetic peptide-based erythropoietin agonist, none of the patients needed blood transfusions, the researchers found. In addition, the amount of antierythropoietin antibodies decreased and in six patients became undetectable.

One patient developed antibodies to the drug and had to go back to receiving regular transfusions, the researchers noted.

Some experts think Hematide could replace other anemia drugs used to treat anemia caused by kidney di
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