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Sevelamer as a phosphate binder in adult hemodialysis patients: an evidence-based review of its therapeutic value

Carole Nadin

Core Medical Publishing, Knutsford, UK

Introduction: Patients on hemodialysis require phosphate binders to reduce dietary phosphate absorption and control serum phosphate. The standard therapy, calcium salts, can be associated with elevated serum calcium (hypercalcemia). Concern has been raised that hypercalcemia, especially combined with elevated serum phosphate, may be associated with arterial calcification, and this may contribute to increased risk of cardiovascular mortality and morbidity. Sevelamer is a nonmetal, nonabsorbed phosphate binder.

Aims: This review assesses the evidence for the therapeutic value of sevelamer as a phosphate binder in adult hemodialysis patients.

Evidence review: Strong evidence shows that sevelamer is as effective as calcium salts in controlling serum phosphate and calcium–phosphate product, has less risk of inducing hypercalcemia and is more effective at lowering lipid levels. Some evidence indicates that sevelamer reduces arterial calcification progression and loss of bone mineral density, but it may be more likely to induce metabolic acidosis, compared with calcium salts. Sevelamer-containing regimens may improve calcific uremic arteriolopathy, although the evidence is weak. Evidence is divided on whether the incidence of gastrointestinal adverse events with sevelamer is similar to or higher than that with calcium salts. Retrospective and modeling studies suggest lower cardiovascular morbidity and mortality with sevelamer than with calcium salts, with incremental cost-effectiveness of $US1100–2200 per life-year gained. Further direct evidence is needed on mortality, quality of life, and cost-effectiveness.

Place in therapy: Sevelamer is effective in controlling serum phosphate and lowering lipid levels in hemodialysis patients without inducing hypercalcemia, and may have beneficial effects on arterial calcification.

Key words: sevelamer, calcium salts, phosphate binder, hemodialysis, chronic kidney disease, evidence

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