Amgen has dodged a potential Aranesp bullet. A new study dubbed "TREAT" showed that while the anemia drug didn't improve the heart health of patients with chronic kidney disease, it didn't hurt, either. That's good news, because previous studies--and the safety issues they highlighted--have really taken a bite out of Amgen's anemia franchise.
Though the TREAT study had initially been designed to see whether treating anemia might improve cardiovascular health, the neither/nor results were hailed as a positive. That's because a previous study of Aranesp's older sister Procrit linked high doses to higher rates of heart attacks and death in kidney patients. "The concern was that the TREAT study would recapitulate the results of the CHOIR study," Ian Somaiya, analyst at Thomas Weisel, told Bloomberg. "Aranesp, in essence, did no harm to these patients."
Amgen was quick to point out the study's good news, emphasizing the study's breadth. "It is by any measure the most comprehensive analysis that has ever been performed to examine the impact of anemia therapy in patients who do not yet require dialysis," Amgen's EVP Roger M. Perlmutter said, in preface to the first-do-no-harm results.
Another positive note: The TREAT study aimed to take Aranesp patients to a hemoglobin target of 13 g/DL. After all the brouhaha over high doses and their potentially damaging effects, the drug's labeling was changed to recommend dosing to achieve hemoglobin of 10 to 12 g/DL. The new data might persuade docs to go a bit higher, using more of the drug in the process.