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Panel backs Amgen’s anemia drugs

The FDA will make the final decision on who can use Amgen’s anemia drugs. The FDA will make the final decision on who can use Amgen’s anemia drugs. (J.B. Reed/ Bloomberg News/ File 2007)
Associated Press / October 19, 2010

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WASHINGTON —Patients with failing kidneys should continue taking a group of widely used anemia drugs, despite a study showing they can increase the risk of stroke, advisers to the Food and Drug Administration recommended yesterday in a 15-to-1 vote.

The medicines, Procrit, Aranesp, and Epogen, all from Amgen Inc., are multibillion-dollar sellers because they boost oxygen-carrying red blood cells, reducing the need for painful blood transfusions.

But sales have fallen sharply since 2007, when the FDA added the first of several safety warnings to the drugs, known as erythropoiesis stimulating agents. They are no longer used for patients with certain cancers.

Panelists said additional studies are needed to find the ideal drug dosage for kidney disease patients.