May / June 2020 News Briefs

Virtual Care Program Improves Patient Knowledge

Cricket Health has released results of a study evaluating Cricket’s virtual care program. The study was conducted by Samaritan Health Services; results were reported in the Journal of Medical Internet Research. The study found that the virtual care program resulted in improved patient knowledge regarding chronic kidney disease (CKD), increased interest in home dialysis, and possibly increased the proportion of dialysis starts in the out-patient setting.

In a press release from Cricket Health, Carmen Peralta, MD, MAS, chief medical officer at Cricket and co-author of the study said, “In this study, Samaritan researchers found that our virtual program can effectively educate patients on their condition, help them understand their treatment options, and, in some cases, help them avoid starting dialysis in the hospital. That’s exactly what’s needed to change the status quo in kidney care. People live with chronic kidney disease every day, not just when they’re visiting a doctor’s office. Better engaging patients through digital tools will help them manage their condition beyond the four walls of a clinic.”

Patients in the program have access to online education materials as well as a multidisciplinary team that includes a nurse, pharmacist, social worker, and dietician, as well as patient mentors. The team works in concert with nephrologists and primary care providers to engage patients to better manage their condition.

Following the pre-specified 9 month study period as well as extended follow-up periods, program participants who initiated dialysis did so in an outpatient setting, compared with 20% of the control group at the end of the 9-month period and 22% after the extended follow-up periods.

Arvind Rajan, Cricket Health CEO, said, “Our current kidney system too often takes a one-size-fits-all approach, but we’re working to change that. Cricket’s virtual program is part of our patient-centered, personalized approach that empowers patients to make informed decisions and remain engaged throughout their journey with a team that is accessible online, at-home, or at their local clinic.”


Nephrology Fellows Named AKF Recipients

The American Kidney Fund (AKF) has announced two recipients of the Clinical Scientist in Nephrology Program. The program is funded by the Hearst Foundation.

Anika Lucas, MD

Dr. Lucas is a nephology fellow at Duke University (Durham, North Carolina). Her patient-centered research on pregnancy and kidney disease will focus on understanding and addressing racial differences and health disparities. The goal of Dr. Lucas’ research is to more accurately identify women who are at particularly high risk for adverse events.

Maria Clarissa Tio, MD

Dr. Tio is a fellow at Brigham and Women’s Hospital/Massachusetts General Hospital Joint Nephrology Program. Her research will focus on several emerging risk factors for progression of chronic kidney disease (CKD).

The AKF Clinical Scientist in Nephrology Program is designed to fund promising young nephrology researchers whose work is designed to improve diagnosis, treatment, and outcomes for patients living with CKD. The Hearst Foundation provided a grant of $100,000 to support the program.


NDA Submitted for Hepatorenal Syndrome Treatment

Mallinckrodt has announced their complete submission of a New Drug Application (NDA) to the US FDA for terlipressin. The agent is being studied for the treatment of hepatorenal syndrome type 1 (HRS-1). Upon approval, terlipressin will be the first FDA-approved treatment for HRS-1 in the United States.

HRS-1, a life-threatening syndrome associated with rapid kidney failure and an overproduction of creatinine typically found in patients with cirrhosis, affects up to 40,000 Americans annually. As the kidneys stop functioning, toxin build up in the body, resulting in a median survival time of <2 weeks and >80% mortality within 3 months in untreated patients.

The NDA is based, in part, on results from the CONFIRM trial, a phase 3 prospective study conducted in patients with HRS-1. Results were reported at The Liver Meeting in 2019. Terlipressin is an investigational product and its safety and efficacy have not been established.


Target Serum Phosphorus Levels Achieved with Velphoro®

In a recent press release, Fresenius Medical Care North America announced results of a new analysis of retrospective data on patients on hemodialysis treated with the phosphate binder Velphoro® (sucroferric oxyhydroxide chewable tablets). Study results were reported in Kidney Medicine.

Patients in the sucroferric oxyhydroxide group were compared with patients who switched from Velphoro to another phosphate binder. A higher percentage of patients who remained on Velphoro maintenance therapy for two years (n=222) achieved target serum phosphorous levels of ≤5.5 mg/dL compared with patients who discontinued the drug within 90 days and switched to another phosphate binder.

Michael Anger, MD, chief medical officer, Renal Therapies Group at Fresenius Medical Care North America, said, “This novel analysis is giving us more evidence that the use of Velphoro has several benefits for our dialysis patients by increasing the number of patients that achieve target serum phosphate levels and lowering the pill burden compared to other prescribed phosphate binders.”

Daniel Coyne, MD, professor of medicine at Washington University School of Medicine St. Louis, said, “Previous real-world studies have shown similar results with Velphoro, but lacked a control group. This two-year analysis addresses that problem, and shows marked improvements with Velphoro that are not achieved using other phosphorus binders.”


Myles Wolf, MD, MMSc, Named to Akebia Therapeutics Board

Akebia Therapeutics, Inc. has announced the appointment of Myles Wolf, MD, MMSc, to the company’s board of directors. Akebia Therapeutics is a biopharmaceutical company dedicated to the development and commercialization of therapeutics for people living with kidney disease. Dr. Wolf is a leading clinical nephrologist and physician-scientist, with special expertise in disordered mineral metabolism and cardiovascular disease in patients with chronic kidney disease. He is chief of the division of nephrology and a professor of medicine at the Duke University School of Medicine, Durham, North Carolina.

In a recent press release, Adrian Adams, chairperson of the board of directors at Akebia said, “We are thrilled to welcome Dr. Myles Wolf as a member of the Akebia board of directors. Given his extensive knowledge and experience with kidney and cardiovascular diseases, Myles brings valuable healthcare provider and patient perspectives to Akebia.”

“I look forward to working with the other members of the board and the management team to deliver on Akebia’s purpose to improve the lives of people living with kidney disease,” Dr. Wolf said.