Derek King Pivotal

Hospitals’ renal service helps make medical breakthrough

Patients and staff in east Kent’s renal dialysis service have changed medical treatment for dialysis patients forever by taking part in a four-and-a-half year clinical trial.

East Kent Hospitals was the third highest recruiting centre out of 50 nationwide who took part in the ground-breaking trial to determine how much iron can safely be given to anaemic kidney patients on haemodialysis.     

One of the complications of being treated for kidney failure using haemodialysis is that people develop anaemia which can leave them feeling exhausted and seriously reduces their quality of life. People suffering from anaemia are traditionally treated with iron, but until now the amount of iron which could safely be given to people on dialysis was largely based on anecdotal evidence, with doctors and nurses reluctant to give high doses of iron for fear of causing serious infections.

The trial showed a higher dose of intravenous iron does not increase the risk and will now give healthcare professionals clear guidance on best practice.

Dr Tim Doulton, Consultant Kidney Specialist at East Kent Hospitals NHS Foundation said: “I have thought for a long time that we should probably be using more IV iron in people on haemodialysis, and so I am delighted by the results.

“As well as showing that higher dose iron is safe, the PIVOTAL trial has been very reassuring in that we didn’t see more infections and participants required fewer blood transfusions and had fewer admissions to hospital with heart failure.

“This is all excellent news for dialysis patients across Kent and Medway, and results from PIVOTAL will change practice across the NHS and internationally.”

Derek King, 84, of Romney Marsh, was one of the patients who took part in the trial. It formed part of his regular four-hour haemodialysis sessions, held three times a week at the Kent & Canterbury Dialysis Unit.

Derek said: “This is the first clinical trial I’ve been involved in and I would definitely recommend it to others. These trials mean that we can gradually learn more and more and that’s the name of the game. It might not benefit me but if I can help someone in the future it’s all for the good.

“It came as a total shock when the doctors told me my kidneys had failed. I thought I’d just got a virus. They still don’t really know what caused the failure but I’ve got used to my situation.

“I consider myself fortunate. I’ve lived my life and don’t have to rush around anymore but some of the younger people on dialysis have got school work, jobs or young families to think of. Hopefully their lives will improve as a result of the trial.” 

The trial was facilitated by Kidney Research UK and led by King’s College Hospital, London. It ran from November 2013 to July 2018.

There are almost 30,000 people on dialysis in the UK. Kidney Research UK helped to deliver and drive the study, supported by a grant of just under £3.5million from Vifor Fresenius Medical Care Renal Pharma Ltd. The company also provided all the iron for the study, free of charge.

To watch a video explaining the trial and what it means for our patients, head here.