Innovation, Partnership and Advocacy: How AstraZeneca is Working to Improve Life for Hyperkalemia Patients

Tarek Rabah

WRITTEN BY

Tarek Rabah, AstraZeneca US Renal Cardio Vice President


Part of transforming the treatment landscape for over 30 million Americans who live with Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) is rethinking our approach to the burden of hyperkalemia (HK), one of CKD’s associated conditions. The key to offering new hope and improved quality of life for people living with HK is what we at AstraZeneca consider a necessary triad of innovation, collaboration and advocacy. We are encouraged by progress in all three areas, driven by vital research, new policies and advocacy initiatives that we are working to drive forward.

In 2014, an estimated 3.7M US adults were affected by HK, defined as high potassium levels in the blood. If left unmanaged, potassium levels can become dangerously high, resulting in serious health issues, including weakness, nausea, paralysis, and heart problems, such as irregular heartbeats.

Innovation

For decades, the standard of care for managing HK had remained unchanged. In recent years, however, our research into groundbreaking therapies and new thinking have yielded an emerging paradigm shift. Instead of trying to control potassium levels strictly through diet or reducing dosages of medications that have benefits in patients with diabetes or heart problems —which can further complicate those conditions—doctors now have new medications as treatment options for HK. But awareness and education remain critical, as the challenges of managing HK may get in the way of optimal therapy for other medical conditions.  However, health guidelines have begun to include these new medications, like K+ binders, as an option so HCPs do not have to compromise RAAS inhibitor therapy in patients with HK.

Another vital area of research lies in highlighting the disproportionate effect of pre-dialysis HK on patients who are on hemodialysis that are: female, ≤80 years old, or of Hispanic ethnicity.  We remain deeply committed to increasing diversity in our clinical trials to ensure that all patients benefit from advances in science.

Partnership

Developing advanced treatments for HK requires collaboration across the healthcare industry.  At AstraZeneca, we prioritize collaborating with innovators to transform treatment and outcomes for people living with HK. Our work with Renalytix AI involves the application of their KidneyIntelX platform, an artificial intelligence-enabled in vitro diagnostic solution for kidney disease developed to drive significant improvements in kidney disease prognosis, provider and patient education, clinical care management, patient stratification for drug clinical trials and drug target discovery.

“Driving progress in a complex indication such as CKD requires aggressive innovation from everyone involved, starting with drug and diagnostic companies,” said James McCullough, CEO at Renalytix. “AstraZeneca, Renalytix and our healthcare system innovators are stepping out-front with a comprehensive care model to ensure that healthcare professionals get the right information to provide patients with CKD and associated conditions, such as HK, optimal treatments at the right time.”

Improving outcomes also requires physician and patient education. By partnering with the American Kidney Fund and their “Beyond Bananas” campaign, we are working towards a better, brighter future in potassium management for millions of HK patients.

“The American Kidney Fund is proud to partner with AstraZeneca on our Beyond Bananas campaign to raise awareness of the severity of untreated hyperkalemia, encourage patients to have conversations with their providers about their risk for hyperkalemia, and empower patients and caregivers to be vigilant in exploring all of their options,” said LaVarne A. Burton, President and CEO of the American Kidney Fund.

Advocacy

AstraZeneca furthers the call to action by advocating for healthcare policies that highlight the need for innovative therapies and improve access to care. This year, we supported new legislation—an updated version of the Chronic Kidney Disease Improvement in Research & Treatment Act (S.1971)—to increase access to services for people living with CKD. We continue to advocate for early detection by supporting partner programs that inform and encourage people at risk of CKD and its associated conditions like HK, while providing access to care and treatment.

Underlying our efforts is a commitment to understanding and empathizing with patients and their experience. Unfiltered Kidney Conversations, is an initiative that speaks to this commitment. It builds a community for people living with CKD to connect with and support one another and helps them access the resources they need to have candid conversations with their healthcare providers (HCPs). 

We believe in a day where CKD and its associated conditions are treated with groundbreaking therapies and reparative treatments that make CKD as we know it a thing of the past. Until that day, we are committed to advancing innovation and supporting the efforts of our partners to ensure that every person living with CKD can enjoy life to its fullest.