Public Release: 

Urate-lowering therapy helps chronic kidney disease patients improve organ function

American College of Rheumatology

WASHINGTON -- Chronic kidney disease patients who take urate-lowering therapy and achieve target urate levels show improvement in kidney function, according to new research findings presented this week at the 2016 ACR/ARHP Annual Meeting in Washington.

Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is a gradual loss of kidney function that can lead to fluid, electrolyte and waste build-up in its advanced stages. Gout, a condition marked by high levels of uric acid that can crystallize through the body, can lead to CKD in some patients.

Could patients with chronic kidney disease benefit from therapies that lower their serum uric acid levels to reach a target goal associated with better organ function? A group of researchers set out to examine whether this therapy, widely used for gout treatment, help CKD patients who achieve the ACR target serum urate level of <6mg/dl. That minimum target is associated with improvement in the signs and symptoms of gout, according to the 2012 ACR Guidelines for Management of Gout. They also wanted to find out if patients' CKD stage at the beginning of treatment would influence the benefits of urate-lowering therapy (ULT). First-line therapies for lowering urate levels are allopurinol and febuxostat.

"Progressive kidney disease leading to dialysis impacts patients on a daily basis and represents a major cost to the health care system," said Gerald Levy, MD, MBA, a rheumatologist at Kaiser Permanente in Downey, California, and a lead author of the study. "Controlling diabetes and hypertension are the primary tools to prevent end stage kidney disease. Normalizing serum uric acid level potentially is another tool to help prevent worsening kidney disease."

In this retrospective cohort study conducted from 2008 to 2014, the researchers identified 12,751 patients with serum urate levels of >7mg/dl. Patients' index date for the study was the first time they achieved this test result. In addition, patients included in the study had an estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR), a test used to measure kidney function and how well the kidneys are filtering blood, in the six months prior to that index date. They also had to be ULT-naïve, 18 years of age or older, and have either CKD Stages 2, 3 or 4 at the index date. The researchers also only included patients who had continuous health coverage with drug benefits during the entire study period. They defined outcomes in the study as either 30 percent decrease or 30 percent improvement in the patients' eGFR test results from baseline to the last available result.

During the study's span, 2,690 patients received ULT and 10,061 patients did not. Serum urate level goals were met in 42 percent of the patients who were on ULT. Of those achieving this goal, 17.1 percent also showed a 30 percent improvement in their eGRF, compared to only 10.4 percent of those patients who did not meet the serum urate goal.

As for the influence of CKD stage at the onset of ULT, 7.1 of Stage 2 patients, 19.9 percent of Stage 3 patients, and 30 percent of Stage 4 patients all met the goal of 30 percent improvement in eGRF. Stage 3 patients had the most pronounced effect from ULT on their kidney function.

The study's findings suggest that CKD patients who achieve the ACR serum urate goal of <6mg/dl have higher rates of eGFR improvement, a key measure for kidney function and prevention of life-threatening kidney failure.

"This study suggests that patients with CKD should be tested for uric acid independent of whether they have gout or not. In patients with significantly elevated serum uric acid and moderate kidney failure, the addition of urate lowering therapy may help stabilize or improve kidney function," said Dr. Levy.

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About the American College of Rheumatology

Headquartered in Atlanta, Ga., the American College of Rheumatology is an international medical society representing over 9,400 rheumatologists and rheumatology health professionals with a mission to Advance Rheumatology! In doing so, the ACR offers education, research, advocacy and practice management support to help its members continue their innovative work and provide quality patient care. Rheumatologists are experts in the diagnosis, management and treatment of more than 100 different types of arthritis and rheumatic diseases. For more information, visit http://www.rheumatology.org.

About the ACR/ARHP Annual Meeting

The ACR/ARHP Annual Meeting is the premier meeting in rheumatology. With more than 450 sessions and thousands of abstracts, it offers a superior combination of basic science, clinical science, tech-med courses, career enhancement education and interactive discussions on improving patient care. For more information about the meeting, visit http://www.acrannualmeeting.org/, or join the conversation on Twitter by following the official #ACR16 hashtag.

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