Tue, Oct 24, 2006 - Page 2 News List

DOH approves new drug

By Angelica Oung  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Department of Health has approved the sale of Lanthanum carbonate, a drug that controls blood phosphate levels.

Effective but expensive, Lanthanum carbonate is one of a new generation of calcium and aluminum-free phosphate-binders.

"Fifty percent of dialysis patient suffer enough blood vessel calcification to be visible on X-rays," said Dr Chiang Shou-Shan (江守山) of Shin Kong Memorial Hospital, who worked on Taiwanese clinical trials of the drug.

"They are at increased risk of death from stroke and heart failure," he said.

Patients would also not have to take as many pills with the new drug.

"If you can reduce the number of pills patients have to take from 40 to 50 down to 20, that makes an important impact," said Dr Paul Altmann, a consultant nephrologist at Oxford Radcliffe Hospitals in England, who has been investigating the clinical uses of Lanthanum carbonate for 10 years.

At NT$150 a pill or NT$450 for a day's supply, the new drug will not be covered by National Health Insurance.

"The next generation of phosphate-binders are effective, but way too expensive for a drug that needs to be taken day in, day out. Neither the National Health Insurance nor most private individuals can afford them," said Dr Cheng Kwang-rhong of the National Kidney Foundation of the Republic of China.

Having "elevated blood phosphate and calcium levels are not the end of the world," Cheng said, adding that efforts should be made earlier in the kidney's decline to avoid blood vessel calcification.

"Controlling the phosphate level in one's diet is important," Cheng said. "And removal of the parathyroid gland can also be used as a last resort to arrest calcification."

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