Erythrocytapheresis versus phlebotomy in the initial treatment of HFE hemochromatosis patients: results from a randomized trial
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BACKGROUND: Standard treatment of newly diagnosed HFE hemochromatosis patients is phlebotomy. Erythrocytapheresis provides a new therapeutic modality that can remove up to three times more red blood cells per single procedure and could thus have a clinical and economic benefit. STUDY DESIGN AND METHODS: To compare the number of treatment procedures between erythrocytapheresis and phlebotomy needed to reach the serum ferritin (SF) target level of 50 microg/L, a two-treatment-arms, randomized trial was conducted in which 38 newly diagnosed patients homozygous for C282Y were randomly assigned in a 1:1 ratio to undergo either erythrocytapheresis or phlebotomy. A 50% decrease in the number of treatment procedures for erythrocytapheresis compared to phlebotomy was chosen as the relevant difference to detect. RESULTS: Univariate analysis showed a significantly lower mean number of treatment procedures in the erythrocytapheresis group (9 vs. 27; ratio, 0.33; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.25-0.45; Mann-Whitney p < 0.001). After adjustments for the two important influential factors initial SF level and body weight, the reduction ratio was still significant (0.43; 95% CI, 0.35-0.52; p < 0.001). Cost analysis showed no significant difference in treatment costs between both procedures. The costs resulting from productivity loss were significantly lower for the erythrocytapheresis group. CONCLUSION: Erythrocytapheresis is highly effective treatment to reduce iron overload and from a societal perspective might potentially also be a cost-saving therapy.