Mimi Murphy's Medical Breakthroughs: Improving Dialysis

By: Mimi Murphy
By: Mimi Murphy

People who suffer from kidney failure need dialysis to help cleanse their blood, but it doesn't remove all of the dangerous impurities. Now there is a new way to boost the effectiveness of dialysis and save the lives of many people who depend on it.

George Jones has gambled with his life. He ignored his doctor's advice to take measures to keep his high blood pressure in check. It took kidney failure for Jones to listen to doctors. Now, three days a week, for three and a half hours, he's hooked to a dialysis machine.

"I guess if it wasn't for dialysis, I wouldn't be here," Jones said.

While dialysis keeps him alive, it has only about a tenth of the blood-cleansing power of normal kidneys.

"One of the big limitations of people on dialysis is that the dialysis machine doesn't take out the phosphorus as well as one might think," said William Finn, M.D., of the University of North Carolina Medical School in Chapel Hill.

Excess phosphorus can cause deadly bone and cardiovascular problems. A new drug, Fosrenol (lanthanum carbonate), allows phosphorus to pass through the body without being absorbed.

"Many of the patients don't object to taking it. It doesn't have some of the complications of other agents," said Dr. Finn.

Study results show Fosrenol reduced death rates among patients by about half. Jones is one patient who benefited.

"It has been very, very important to me to have medicines with me that help me and I think this new medicine might do the job," Jones said.

The study included more than 1,200 patients on hemodialysis. More than 350,000 people in the United States receive treatment for kidney failure, and about 60 percent of those will undergo hemodialysis.

If you would like more information, please contact:

National Kidney Foundation
30 East 33rd St.
New York, NY 10016
(800) 622-9016

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