AstraZeneca has highlighted both the economic and environmental benefits of implementing early, targeted screening for chronic kidney disease (CKD).

CKD is a long-term condition where the kidneys gradually lose function, leading to buildup of waste in the body. It often results from diabetes, high blood pressure, or glomerulonephritis, and advanced CKD causes fatigue, swelling and altered urination. Untreated CKD can progress to end-stage renal disease, necessitating dialysis or a kidney transplant.

AstraZeneca developed the blockbuster diabetes treatment Farxiga (dapagliflozin), a drug that nabbed an expanded label in CKD in 2021. The company is aiming to help reduce progression to kidney failure by 20% by 2025.

Speaking to Pharmaceutical Technology, senior vice president, global cardiovascular, renal and metabolism (CVRM), biopharmaceuticals business unit at AstraZeneca, Mina Makar, emphasised the importance of early diagnosis.

“It’s very important that we start to screen and diagnose early. If you think about CKD, you’re talking about 800 million plus patients throughout the world. It’s one of the biggest disease areas and only about 10% are diagnosed today,” explained Makar.

Data from AstraZeneca’s IMPACT CKD modelling study, show the economic benefit of implementing early, targeted screening for CKD. The modelling analysis shows the potential for $16.95bn (€15.8bn) in savings over ten years by preventing cardiovascular events across healthcare systems in Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, and the United Kingdom.

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Makar highlighted that keeping patients off dialysis is a main priority: “We’re trying to reduce patients starting on dialysis because it’s a very difficult outcome for a patient and their family. It’s life changing to be at that level of kidney decline.” Makar went on to say the  number of patients who need dialysis is projected to keep increasing as the population ages and targeting that is a high priority for the company.  

A second analysis of IMPACT CKD study demonstrated the importance of targeted screening and guideline-directed medical therapy (GDMT) for patients at a high risk of CKD. A forecasted reduction in the incidence of undiagnosed CKD, dialysis, cardiovascular events, and mortality could be forecasted across the studied countries with these measures compared to current practices.

In addition to being costly, kidney dialysis has a significant environmental impact due to its high energy and water usage. Each dialysis session can consume 120-200 litres of water and significant energy while generating considerable single-use plastic waste.

“If you add up all of the environmental burden of dialysis, it is one of the highest environmental burdens on the health care system,” said Makar.