American Journal of Kidney Diseases

Phosphate-Binder Use in US Dialysis Patients: Prevalence, Costs, Evidence, and Policies

Published:November 28, 2017DOI:
      Medicare costs for phosphate binders for US dialysis patients and patients with chronic kidney disease enrolled in Medicare Part D exceeded $1.5 billion in 2015. Previous data have shown that Part D costs for mineral and bone disorder medications increased faster than costs for all Part D medications for dialysis patients. Despite extensive use of phosphate binders and escalating costs, conclusive evidence is lacking that they improve important clinical end points in dialysis patients or non–dialysis-dependent patients with chronic kidney disease. Using dialysis patient data from the US Renal Data System and laboratory information from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) CROWNWeb data, we update information on trends in phosphate-binder use, calcium and phosphorus values, and costs for Medicare-covered dialysis patients. We discuss these results in the context of evidence from clinical trials, meta-analyses, and observational studies evaluating phosphate-binder efficacy, safety, comparative effectiveness, and cost-effectiveness. Based on our analysis, we note a need for US Food and Drug Administration guidance regarding clinical evaluation of new phosphate binders, and we suggest that it would be in CMS’ best interest to fund a clinical trial to assess whether lower versus higher phosphate concentrations improve hard clinical outcomes, and if so, whether particular phosphate binders are superior to placebo or other binders in improving these outcomes.

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