Background Little is known about epoetin alfa (EPO) dosing at dialysis centers after implementation of the US Medicare prospective payment system and revision of the EPO label in 2011. Study Design Retrospective cohort study. Setting & Participants Approximately 412,000 adult hemodialysis patients with Medicare Parts A and B as primary payer in 2009 to 2012 to describe EPO dosing and hemoglobin patterns; of these, about 70,000 patients clustered in about 1,300 dialysis facilities to evaluate facility-level EPO titration practices and patient-level outcomes in 2012. Predictor Facility EPO titration practices when hemoglobin levels were <10 and >11 g/dL (grouped treatment variable) determined from monthly EPO dosing and hemoglobin level patterns. Outcomes Patient mean hemoglobin levels, red blood cell transfusion rates, and all-cause and cause-specific hospitalization rates using a facility-based analysis. Measurements Monthly EPO dose and hemoglobin level, red blood cell transfusion rates, and all-cause and cause-specific hospitalization rates. Results Monthly EPO doses declined across all hemoglobin levels, with the greatest decline in patients with hemoglobin levels < 10 g/dL (July-October 2011). In 2012, nine distinct facility titration practices were identified. Across groups, mean hemoglobin levels differed slightly (10.5-10.8 g/dL) but within-patient hemoglobin standard deviations were similar (∼0.68 g/dL). Patients at facilities implementing greater dose reductions and smaller dose escalations had lower hemoglobin levels and higher transfusion rates. In contrast, patients at facilities that implemented greater dose escalations (and large or small dose reductions) had higher hemoglobin levels and lower transfusion rates. There were no clinically meaningful differences in all-cause or cause-specific hospitalization events across groups. Limitations Possibly incomplete claims data; excluded small facilities and those without consistent titration patterns; hemoglobin levels reported monthly; inferred facility practice from observed dosing. Conclusions Following prospective payment system implementation and labeling revisions, EPO doses declined significantly. Under the new label, facility EPO titration practices were associated with mean hemoglobin levels (but not standard deviations) and transfusion use, but not hospitalization rates.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Support: This study was supported by a research contract from Amgen Inc, Thousand Oaks, CA. The contract provides for the Minneapolis Medical Research Foundation authors to have final determination of manuscript content.
Financial Disclosure: Ms Molony and Drs Li, Gilbertson, and Collins are employed by the Chronic Disease Research Group, which receives research support from Amgen. Drs Monda, Beaubrun, and Bradbury are employed by Amgen. Dr Gilbertson has provided consultation to GlaxoSmithKline and DaVita Clinical Research. Dr Collins has provided consultation to Amgen, Relypsa, DaVita Clinical Research, NxStage, Keryx, and ZS Pharma. Dr Li declares that she has no other relevant financial interests.
- EPO titration
- Medicare reimbursement
- anemia management
- end-stage renal disease (ESRD)
- epoetin alfa
- erythropoiesis-stimulating agent (ESA)
- grouped-treatment level analysis
- practice patterns
- recombinant human erythropoietin (rHuEPO)
- red blood cell transfusion rate