Public release date: 7-May-2008
Washington, DC (Tuesday, May 6, 2008) — For patients with moderate to severe chronic kidney disease
(CKD), treatment with activated vitamin D may reduce the risk of death by approximately one-fourth,
suggests a study in the August Journal of the American Society of Nephrology.
Many patients with advanced CKD take the drug calcitriol, an oral form of activated vitamin D, to
treat elevated levels of parathyroid hormone. “Although activated vitamin D is known to influence many
biological processes, previous clinical knowledge is limited to its effect on parathyroid hormone levels,”
explains Dr. Bryan Kestenbaum of the University of Washington in Seattle, one of the study authors.
The study included 1,418 patients who had stage 3 to 4 CKD, which means moderately to severely
reduced kidney function. All patients also had high parathyroid hormone levels (hyperparathyroidism),
which can contribute to weakening of the bones in CKD. The researchers identified one group of patients
who were being treated with calcitriol to lower their parathyroid hormone levels and another group who
were not receiving calcitriol.
During a two-year follow-up period, mortality rates were compared for patients who were and were
not taking calcitriol. “We then adjusted for differences in age, kidney function, parathyroid hormone levels,
other illnesses, and other medications,” says Dr. Kestenbaum.
In the adjusted analysis, the overall risk of death was about 26 percent lower for patients taking
calcitriol. Patients on calcitriol were also less likely to develop end-stage renal disease, requiring dialysis to
replace lost kidney function.
Overall, treatment with calcitriol was associated with a 20 percent reduction in the risk of either
death or dialysis. The reduction in mortality with calcitriol was unrelated to its effect on parathyroid