Pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of once-weekly subcutaneous epoetin alfa in critically ill patients: results of a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial

Jean-Louis Vincent, Herbert D M H Spapen, Jacques Creteur, Michael Piagnerelli, Ives Hubloue, Marc Diltoer, Alain Roman, Etienne Stevens, Els Vercammen, Jessica S Beaver

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


OBJECTIVE: To describe the erythropoietin pharmacokinetic profile after once-weekly epoetin alfa treatment in critically ill patients. Secondary objectives were to compare pharmacodynamic and safety profiles between active treatment and placebo in these patients.

DESIGN: Randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study.

SETTING: Medical, surgical, or mixed medical/surgical intensive care units.

PATIENTS: A total of 73 anemic critically ill adults with an expected stay of >3 days and a hematocrit value of <38%.

INTERVENTIONS: Patients were randomized 2:1 to epoetin alfa, 40,000 IU, administered subcutaneously once weekly (n=48) or matching placebo (n=25) for up to 4 wks.

MEASUREMENTS AND MAIN RESULTS: Serum erythropoietin concentration and hematologic variables (percentage reticulocytes [RETI], hemoglobin [Hb], and total red blood cell [RBC] counts) were measured, and area under the serum concentration-time curve from time 0 to the last blood sampling time at time t (t: 120, 144, or 168 hrs) postdose (AUC0-Tlast) for these three variables was determined. Mean serum erythropoietin concentrations in placebo patients were slightly higher than typical physiologic levels of erythropoietin in healthy subjects, although not appropriate for the degree of anemia in these patients. Overall, exposure of endogenous erythropoietin in the placebo group (in terms of AUC0-Tlast) was only about 20% of exposure to exogenous erythropoietin in the epoetin alfa group. Baseline hemoglobin levels were the same in both groups (9.9 g/dL). Mean change in hemoglobin level from baseline through day 29 was 1.9 g/dL and 1.6 g/dL in the epoetin alfa and placebo groups, respectively. Mean AUC(RETI)0-Tlast was higher with epoetin alfa than with placebo and was related to the AUC of erythropoietin. There were no apparent differences in AUC(Hb)0-Tlast and AUC(RBC)0-Tlast between epoetin alfa and placebo groups, which was most likely due to bleeding and transfusion events. Epoetin alfa was safe and well tolerated, with a rate of treatment-emergent complications similar to that seen with placebo.

CONCLUSION: Epoetin alfa, once weekly, augmented the erythropoietic response in critically ill patients as indicated by the increased erythropoietin levels and larger AUC(RETI)0-Tlast in treated patients.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1661-1667
Number of pages7
JournalCritical Care Medicine
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2006


  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Anemia/blood
  • Critical Illness
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Drug Administration Schedule
  • Epoetin Alfa
  • Erythrocyte Count
  • Erythropoietin/administration & dosage
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Hematinics/administration & dosage
  • Hemoglobins/metabolism
  • Humans
  • Injections, Subcutaneous
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Treatment Outcome


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