The Japanese Society for Dialysis Therapy (JSDT) guideline committee, chaired by Dr Y. Tsubakihara, presents the Japanese guidelines entitled “Guidelines for Renal Anemia in Chronic Kidney Disease.” These guidelines replace the “2004 JSDT Guidelines for Renal Anemia in Chronic Hemodialysis Patients,” and contain new, additional guidelines for peritoneal dialysis (PD), non-dialysis (ND), and pediatric chronic kidney disease (CKD) patients.
Chapter 1 presents reference values for diagnosing anemia that are based on the most recent epidemiological data from the general Japanese population. In both men and women, hemoglobin (Hb) levels decrease along with an increase in age and the level for diagnosing anemia has been set at <13.5 g/dL in males and <11.5 g/dL in females. However, the guidelines explicitly state that the target Hb level in erythropoiesis stimulating agent (ESA) therapy is different to the anemia reference level. In addition, in defining renal anemia, the guidelines emphasize that the reduced production of erythropoietin (EPO) that is associated with renal disorders is the primary cause of renal anemia, and that renal anemia refers to a condition in which there is no increased production of EPO and serum EPO levels remain within the reference range for healthy individuals without anemia, irrespective of the glomerular filtration rate (GFR). In other words, renal anemia is clearly identified as an “endocrine disease.” It is believed that defining renal anemia in this way will be extremely beneficial for ND patients exhibiting renal anemia despite having a high GFR. We have also emphasized that renal anemia may be treated not only with ESA therapy but also with appropriate iron supplementation and the improvement of anemia associated with chronic disease, which is associated with inflammation, and inadequate dialysis, another major cause of renal anemia.
In Chapter 2, which discusses the target Hb levels in ESA therapy, the guidelines establish different target levels for hemodialysis (HD) patients than for PD and ND patients, for two reasons: (i) In Japanese HD patients, Hb levels following hemodialysis rise considerably above their previous levels because of ultrafiltration-induced hemoconcentration; and (ii) as noted in the 2004 guidelines, although 10 to 11 g/dL was optimal for long-term prognosis if the Hb level prior to the hemodialysis session in an HD patient had been established at the target level, it has been reported that, based on data accumulated on Japanese PD and ND patients, in patients without serious cardiovascular disease, higher levels have a cardiac or renal function protective effect, without any safety issues. Accordingly, the guidelines establish a target Hb level in PD and ND patients of 11 g/dL or more, and recommend 13 g/dL as the criterion for dose reduction/withdrawal. However, with the results of, for example, the CHOIR (Correction of Hemoglobin and Outcomes in Renal Insufficiency) study in mind, the guidelines establish an upper limit of 12 g/dL for patients with serious cardiovascular disease or patients for whom the attending physician determines high Hb levels would not be appropriate.
Chapter 3 discusses the criteria for iron supplementation. The guidelines establish reference levels for iron supplementation in Japan that are lower than those established in the Western guidelines. This is because of concerns about long-term toxicity if the results of short-term studies conducted by Western manufacturers, in which an ESA cost-savings effect has been positioned as a primary endpoint, are too readily accepted. In other words, if the serum ferritin is <100 ng/mL and the transferrin saturation rate (TSAT) is <20%, then the criteria for iron supplementation will be met; if only one of these criteria is met, then iron supplementation should be considered unnecessary.
Although there is a dearth of supporting evidence for these criteria, there are patients that have been surviving on hemodialysis in Japan for more than 40 years, and since there are approximately 20 000 patients who have been receiving hemodialysis for more than 20 years, which is a situation that is different from that in many other countries. As there are concerns about adverse reactions due to the overuse of iron preparations as well, we therefore adopted the expert opinion that evidence obtained from studies in which an ESA cost-savings effect had been positioned as the primary endpoint should not be accepted unquestioningly.
In Chapter 4, which discusses ESA dosing regimens, and Chapter 5, which discusses poor response to ESAs, we gave priority to the usual doses that are listed in the package inserts of the ESAs that can be used in Japan. However, if the maximum dose of darbepoetin alfa that can currently be used in HD and PD patients were to be used, then the majority of poor responders would be rescued.
Blood transfusions are discussed in Chapter 6. Blood transfusions are attributed to the difficulty of managing renal anemia not only in HD patients, but also in end-stage ND patients who respond poorly to ESAs. It is believed that the number of patients requiring transfusions could be reduced further if there were novel long-acting ESAs that could be used for ND patients.
Chapter 7 discusses adverse reactions to ESA therapy. Of particular concern is the emergence and exacerbation of hypertension associated with rapid hematopoiesis due to ESA therapy.
The treatment of renal anemia in pediatric CKD patients is discussed in Chapter 8; it is fundamentally the same as that in adults.