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BACKGROUND: Erythropoiesis-stimulating agent (ESA)-hyporesponsive anemia is common in chronic kidney disease (CKD). Pentoxifylline shows promise as a treatment for ESA-hyporesponsive anemia, but has not been rigorously evaluated. STUDY DESIGN: Multicenter, double-blind, randomized, controlled trial. SETTING & PARTICIPANTS: 53 adult patients with CKD stage 4 or 5 (including dialysis) and ESA-hyporesponsive anemia (hemoglobin≤120g/L and ESA resistance index [calculated as weight-adjusted weekly ESA dose in IU/kg/wk divided by hemoglobin concentration in g/L]≥1.0IU/kg/wk/g/L for erythropoietin-treated patients and ≥0.005μg/kg/wk/g/L for darbepoetin-treated patients). INTERVENTIONS: Pentoxifylline (400mg/d; n=26) or matching placebo (control; n=27) for 4 months. OUTCOMES: PRIMARY OUTCOME: ESA resistance index at 4 months; secondary outcomes: hemoglobin concentration, ESA dose, blood transfusion requirement, serum ferritin level and transferrin saturation, C-reactive protein level, adverse events, quality of life, and health economics. RESULTS: There was no statistically significant difference in ESA resistance index between the pentoxifylline and control groups (adjusted mean difference, -0.39 [95%CI, -0.89 to 0.10] IU/kg/wk/g/L; P=0.1). Pentoxifylline significantly increased hemoglobin concentration relative to the control group (adjusted mean difference, 7.6 [95%CI, 1.7-13.5] g/L; P=0.01). There was no difference in ESA dose between groups (-20.8 [95%CI, -67.2 to 25.7] IU/kg/wk; P=0.4). No differences in blood transfusion requirements, adverse events, or quality of life were observed between groups. Pentoxifylline cost A$88.05 (US $82.94) per person over the trial and produced mean savings in ESA cost of A$1,332 (US $1,255). The overall economic impact over the trial period was a saving of A$1,244 (US $1,172) per person for the pentoxifylline group compared with controls. LIMITATIONS: Sample size smaller than planned due to slow recruitment. CONCLUSIONS: Pentoxifylline did not significantly modify ESA hyporesponsiveness, but increased hemoglobin concentration. Further studies are warranted to determine whether pentoxifylline therapy represents a safe strategy for increasing hemoglobin levels in patients with CKD with ESA-hyporesponsive anemia.

Original publication





Am J Kidney Dis

Publication Date





49 - 57


Anemia, ESA hyporesponsiveness, ESA resistance index (ERI), chronic kidney disease (CKD), darbepoetin, dialysis, drug sensitivity, epoetin, erythropoiesis-stimulating agent (ESA), erythropoietin, hemoglobin, pentoxifylline, randomized controlled trial, Adult, Aged, Anemia, Cost Savings, Double-Blind Method, Drug Monitoring, Drug Resistance, Drug Synergism, Erythropoiesis, Erythropoietin, Hematologic Agents, Hemoglobins, Humans, Middle Aged, Pentoxifylline, Quality of Life, Renal Insufficiency, Chronic, Vasodilator Agents