Will there still be a role for the originator erythropoiesis-simulating agents after the biosimilars and the hypoxia-inducible factor stabilizers approval?

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Purpose of review

To discuss if there will still be a role for the originator ESAs after the already available biosimilars and the approval of HIF stabilizers in the near future.

Recent findings

Current treatment with erythropoiesis-simulating agents (ESAs) is effective and generally well tolerated, but requires parenteral injections. It is also surrounded by safety concerns and is still expensive. Functional iron deficiency is the major obstacle for efficient ESA therapy. ESA resistance may develop, calling for high ESA doses, further increasing the side effects associated with ESA use. Biosimilars were introduced for reducing costs. In searching for an ideal antianemic drug, new investigational strategies have been proposed including the attractive alternative hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF) stabilizers, which stimulate endogenous EPO production. However, we should caution in translating the historical results referring to the side effects of ESAs to current clinical practice, considering that hemoglobin targets and ESAs doses are now much lower. We could anticipate that side effects will be much less.


According to preliminary data, orally administered HIF stabilizers could provide pharmacological advantages over the existing ESAs. These will need confirmation by the findings of large, phase-3, clinical trials. Finally, cost will be an important issue determining their future use.

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