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Press release


Treatment for Iron Deficiency Helps Heart-Failure Patients

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Tests show improved exercise capacity and well-being

Researchers at the Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin have discovered that intravenous iron considerably improves quality of life in heart-failure patients. Prof. Stefan Anker and his team from the Department of Cardiology at the Campus Virchow-Klinikum, led the first large inter¬national study on the effect of iron therapy in patients with heart failure. Their results are published in the current issue of the New England Journal of Medicine*.

"Iron deficiency plays an important role in many severe disorders", explained Prof. Anker. It is known that iron deficiency frequently leads to anaemia in patients suffering from tumours, lung and kidney disease. The body produces either insufficient haemoglobin (the red pigment present in the blood) or too few red blood cells. This can cause physical weakness, shortness of breath, headache, fainting and sleeplessness. These patients are often given an iron injection. "However, no-one thought of testing the effect of iron in heart failure until now", stressed Prof. Anker. "Our group was able to determine that not only does intravenous iron considerably benefit heart-failure patients with anaemia, but also those who are "only" suffering from iron deficiency without anaemia."

A total of 75 study centres in 11 countries took part in the trial. The researchers studied 459 patients whose hearts showed symptoms of diminished pumping ability and whose blood was shown to be lacking in iron. Two-thirds of patients received treatment with ferric carboxy¬maltose and one-third were given a placebo. "We did not expect to see such a rapid improve¬ment", reported Prof. Anker. Significant results were seen after only four weeks of treatment. After 24 weeks of treatment, 50 percent of patients receiving iron therapy said that they felt much better, compared to 27 percent in the placebo group. The patients treated with iron also suffered considerably less shortness of breath. The distance they were able to walk in six minutes increased by 35 metres compared to those in the placebo group. The quality of life of the iron-treated patients also improved substantially.

"Intravenous iron therapy can really help heart-failure patients", concluded Prof. Anker. Our results show that the treatment is also very well tolerated. The great advantage is that the drug is already available." Prof. Anker advises patients with heart failure to have their iron levels checked: patients found to have iron deficiency or anaemia should talk to their doctor about intravenous iron therapy. His next project is to test the effect of iron therapy in patients with heart failure whose hearts do not have impaired pumping action. "We may well have stumbled across a further research field here", he said.

*Stefan D. Anker et al.: Ferric Carboxymaltose in Patients with Heart Failure and Iron Deficiency. In: The New England Journal of Medicine. November 2009.


Prof. Stefan Anker
Angewandte Kachexieforschung
Medizinische Klinik mit Schwerpunkt Kardiologie
Campus Virchow-Klinikum
Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin
t: +49 30 450 553 463

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