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Medical News & Perspectives
February 3, 2010

New Findings Challenge Thinking About Anemia, Iron Deficiency, and Heart Risk

JAMA. 2010;303(5):405-406. doi:10.1001/jama.2010.37

Orlando—The roles played by anemia and iron deficiency in cardiovascular risk remain unclear, and findings on how treatment of these conditions affects such risk have further complicated the puzzle.

Anemia serves as a biomarker because lower hemoglobin levels are associated with higher rates of cardiovascular and renal events. One treatment strategy is to use erythropoiesis-stimulating agents (ESAs) to increase hemoglobin levels. ESAs have been found to reduce the need for red-cell transfusions and improve such patient quality-of-life factors as fatigue. But until lately, ESAs had not been tested against a placebo, so their effects on hard clinical end points such as reducing the risk of a cardiovascular event or death had remained unknown.