The ESA scenario gets complex: From biosimilar epoetins to activin traps

Wolfgang Jelkmann*

*Corresponding author for this work
26 Citations (Scopus)


Recombinant human erythropoietin (rhEpo, epoetin) has proved beneficial in preventing transfusion-dependent anaemia in patients with chronic kidney disease. Apart from copied epoetins distributed in less regulated markets, 'biosimilar' epoetins have gained currency in many regions, where they compete with the originals and with rhEpo analogues with prolonged survival in circulation ('biobetter'). Recombinant erythropoiesis stimulating agents are potent and well tolerated. However, their production is costly, and they must be administered by the parenteral route. Hence, other anti-anaemia treatments are being evaluated. Clinical trials are being performed with stabilizers of the hypoxia-inducible transcription factors (HIFs), which increase endogenous Epo production. HIF stabilizers are chemical drugs and they are active on oral administration. However, there is fear that they may promote tumour growth. Epo mimetic peptides have also raised expectations. Yet the prototype peginesatide was recalled after just 1 year of its widespread use in the USA because of serious side-effects including cases of death. Most recently, clinical trials have been initiated with sotatercept, a recombinant soluble activin receptor type 2A IgG-Fc fusion protein. Sotatercept binds distinct members of the transforming growth factor-β family, thereby preventing the inhibitory action of these factors in erythropoiesis. Taken together, rhEpo and its long-acting recombinant analogues will likely remain mainstay of anti-anaemia therapies in the near future.

Original languageEnglish
JournalNephrology Dialysis Transplantation
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)553-559
Number of pages7
Publication statusPublished - 01.04.2015

Research Areas and Centers

  • Academic Focus: Center for Brain, Behavior and Metabolism (CBBM)


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