Drugs to treat anemia in older cancer patients increased their risk of blood clots and didn’t reduce the need for blood transfusions.
Among over 56,000 cancer patients 65 and older treated in community settings from 1991 through 2002, 27 percent received an erythropoiesis-stimulating agent (ESA). Fifteen percent of those who got ESAs developed a blood clot (venous thromboembolism) compared to 10 percent of patients who didn’t have ESA treatment.
Although the goal of ESAs was to reduce the need for blood transfusions, the percentage of transfusions remained steady at 22 percent each year from 1991 through 2002. Overall survival didn’t differ between the patients who received ESAs and those who didn’t.