One Thing is Not Like the Other

I’d always thought that albuminuria and proteinuria were one and the same since the words are often use interchangeably. Guess who was wrong. While ‘uria,’ means:  

“a combining form with the meanings ‘presence in the urine’ of that specified by the initial element (albuminuria; pyuria), ‘condition of the urinary tract,’ ‘tendency to urinate as specified (polyuria).’’ 

according to Dictionary.com at https://www.dictionary.com/browse/-uria, albumin and protein are two different substances. 

I know they are closely related, but yet… still not the same. Let’s take a look at albumin: 

“Your liver makes albumin. Albumin carries substances such as hormones, medicines, and enzymes throughout your body.” 

Thank you to University of Rochester’s Medical Center’s Health Encyclopedia at bit.ly/3agVUO8 for this information. 

Wait a minute, the liver? I thought we were dealing with the kidneys. Let me think a minute. I know: we’ll go to the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease. This is what I found at bit.ly/3pDfmer

“Albuminuria is a sign of kidney disease and means that you have too much albumin in your urine. Albumin is a protein found in the blood. A healthy kidney doesn’t let albumin pass from the blood into the urine. A damaged kidney lets some albumin pass into the urine. The less albumin in your urine, the better.” 

Oh, so the albumin itself doesn’t harm the kidneys, but is a sign of kidney disease. Got it. But it’s a protein. Let’s take a look at the protein part of proteinuria and see if we can figure this out. 

In What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Kidney Disease, I defined protein as: 

“Amino acids arranged in chains joined by peptide bonds to form a compound, important because some proteins are hormones, enzymes and antibodies.”   

Look at that: hormones and enzymes are mentioned in both definitions. It would make sense to define these two words now. According to my first book on Chronic Kidney Disease, 

“Hormones: Gland produced chemicals that trigger tissues to do whatever their particular job is.” 

I need some examples. Hormone.org has an extensive list.  Some hormones you might recognize are: 

  • Adrenaline 
  • Cortisol 
  • Erythropoietin 
  • Estrogen 
  • Glucagon 
  • Insulin 
  • Melatonin 
  • Oxytocin 
  • Serotonin 
  • Testosterone 
  • Vitamin D 

What about enzymes? The Merriam Webster Dictionary can help us out here. 

“any of numerous complex proteins that are produced by living cells and catalyze specific biochemical reactions at body temperatures” 

I don’t know about you, but I’m better with examples. I took a short list from MedicalNewsToday: 

  • Lipases 
  • Amylase 
  • Lactase 

These terms may look familiar from your quarterly blood tests. 

I still don’t get it. If albumin is a protein, why isn’t it considered proteinuria? MDEdge, a new site for me, but one that seems credible, explains: 

“Proteinuria and albuminuria are not the same thing. Proteinuria indicates an elevated presence of protein in the urine (normal excretion should be < 150 mg/d), while albuminuria is defined as an ‘abnormal loss of albumin in the urine.’…. Albumin is a type of plasma protein normally found in the urine in very small quantities. Albuminuria is a very common (though not universal) finding in CKD patients; is the earliest indicator of glomerular diseases, such as diabetic glomerulosclerosis; and is typically present even before a decrease in the glomerular filtration rate (GFR) or a rise in the serum creatinine…. 

Albuminuria, without or with a reduction in estimated GFR (eGFR), lasting > 3 months is considered a marker of kidney damage. There are 3 categories of persistent albuminuria…. Staging of CKD depends on both the eGFR and the albuminuria category; the results affect treatment considerations.” 

The important part to remember is that both are indicators of Chronic Kidney Disease. 

Switch of topics here. Remember KidneyX? That’s, 

“The Kidney Innovation Accelerator (KidneyX), a public-private partnership between the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the American Society of Nephrology (ASN), is accelerating innovation in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of kidney diseases.”   

Well, they have an announcement for you: 

“The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the American Society of Nephrology (ASN) announced the eight winners of the KidneyX COVID-19 Kidney Care Challenge Round 1. The $300,000 challenge has identified solutions that could reduce the transmission of coronavirus among people with kidney disease and/or reduce the risk of kidney damage among people who contract the virus. 

‘We congratulate the Round 1 winners who have highlighted approaches to patient monitoring, patient education, and vaccine distribution,’ said HHS Acting Assistant Secretary for Health Rear Admiral Felicia Collins, MD, MPH. ‘We look forward to the subsequent round of rapid-response innovation that supports COVID-19 risk reduction in kidney patients and health professionals during the pandemic.’ 

Each winner will receive $20,000 in recognition of their solution…. The KidneyX Round 2 winners will be announced in February, 2021. 

COVID-19 Kidney Care Challenge Round 1 Winners 

The following submissions were selected as winners of the COVID-19 Kidney Care Challenge Round 1: 

  • 9 Remote Monitoring Platform to Reduce COVID-19 Risk for Hemodialysis Patients 
  • Free E-Learning Platform with CKD and COVID-19 Patient Education 
  • Immediate Rooming for Patients 
  • Canopy: the Next Generation, Reusable Respirator 
  • Characterizing and Targeting Vaccine Hesitancy Among End-Stage Kidney Disease (ESKD) Patients 
  • COVID-19 in Translation: Making Patient Education Accessible to Minorities 
  • The ‘Good Humoral’ Immunity Truck and Freezer Project 
  • Development of Telemedicine-Enhanced Peritoneal Dialysis Training Protocols During COVID-1″ 

Did you know that patients were involved in these projects? 

We’ve passed a sort of milestone with SlowItDownCKD: this is the 601st blog. If there were no Covid-19, I would invite you all to my house for a Renal Diet Bar-B-Q. We know that’s not going to happen any time soon, so – please – have a special meal at your home with those you love. Wear your masks, keep six feet apart, wash your hands often, keep it to a very small gathering of those who are in your pod (Our pod is very small, just Bear and me.), but have a good time anyway. 

Until next week, 

Keep living your life! 

D&C Now has Another Meaning

We usually think of a D&C as a women’s issue:  

“Dilation and curettage (D&C) is a procedure to remove tissue from inside your uterus. Doctors perform dilation and curettage to diagnose and treat certain uterine conditions — such as heavy bleeding — or to clear the uterine lining after a miscarriage or abortion.” 

Thank you to MayoClinic at https://mayocl.in/3oOzkC2 for the above explanation. 

But that’s not what I’ll be writing about today. The ‘D’ in the title stands for Dialysis and the ‘C‘ for Covid-19. Yes, Covid-19 has struck close to home for us. Someone my grown children are very close to has tested positive. He also started dialysis so recently that he hasn’t yet accepted that this is what is keeping him alive. 

Let’s get some definitions out of the way first. Take it away, Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Dialysis:  1. the separation of substances in solution by means of their unequal diffusion through semipermeable membranes 

                 2. the process of removing blood from an artery (as of a patient affected with kidney failure), purifying it by dialysis, adding vital substances, and returning it to a vein 

Covid-19: a mild to severe respiratory illness that is caused by a coronavirus (Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 of the genus Betacoronavirus), is transmitted chiefly by contact with infectious material (such as respiratory droplets) or with objects or surfaces contaminated by the causative virus, and is characterized especially by fever, cough, and shortness of breath and may progress to pneumonia and respiratory failure 

NOTE: While fever, cough, and shortness of breath are common symptoms of COVID-19, other symptoms may include fatigue, chills, body aches, headache, loss of taste or smell, sore throat, runny nose, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. 

 Here are an additional couple of definitions you may need. They’re from the glossary of What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease. 

Arteries: Vessels that carry blood from the heart. 

Veins: Vessels that carry blood toward the heart. 

Now what? Let’s see if we can find out how Covid-19 affects dialysis patients. The Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology (CJASN) at https://cjasn.asnjournals.org/content/15/8/1087 reports the following in an August study: 

“The patients with kidney disease who appear most at risk for COVID-19 are those with a kidney transplant, due to immunosuppression, and those who undergo in-center hemodialysis treatments thrice weekly, due to inability to self-isolate. Patients with kidney disease also have other comorbidities, including hypertension, diabetes mellitus, and cardiovascular disease, that are risk factors for poor outcomes in COVID-19.” 

On December 1 of this year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) cautioned those of us with chronic kidney disease, including those on dialysis: 

“Having chronic kidney disease of any stage increases your risk for severe illness from COVID-19. 

Actions to take 

Continue your medicines and your diet as directed by your healthcare provider. 

Make sure that you have at least a 30-day supply of your medicines. 

Stay in contact with your healthcare team as often as possible, especially if you have any new signs or symptoms of illness. Also reach out to them if you can’t get the medicines or foods you need. 

If you don’t have a healthcare provider, contact your nearest community health or health department. 

Have shelf-stable food choices to help you follow your kidney diet. 

If you are on dialysis: 

Contact your dialysis clinic and your healthcare provider if you feel sick or have concerns. 

Do NOT miss your treatments. 

Plan to have enough food on hand to follow the KCER 3-Day Emergency Diet for dialysis patients in case you are unable to maintain your normal treatment schedule. 

Learn more about kidney disease. 

Learn how to take care of your kidneys.” 

The KCER 3-Day Emergency Diet is not that intricate, but it is a long explanation. Click on the link to go right to the diet itself. 

We know the best way to deal with Covid-19 is prevention. I’m sure you’re tired of hearing it, but here are the ways you can hopefully do just that. This information was posted on the World Health Organization’s (WHO) website at bit.ly/3nfeMCB on December 8th of this year. 

“Maintain at least a 1-metre [Gail here: that’s 3.28 ft, so I’d be more comfortable with 2-metres.] distance between yourself and others to reduce your risk of infection when they cough, sneeze or speak. Maintain an even greater distance between yourself and others when indoors. The further away, the better. 

Make wearing a mask a normal part of being around other people. The appropriate use, storage and cleaning or disposal are essential to make masks as effective as possible. 

Here are the basics of how to wear a mask: 

Clean your hands before you put your mask on, as well as before and after you take it off, and after you touch it at any time. 

Make sure it covers both your nose, mouth and chin. 

When you take off a mask, store it in a clean plastic bag, and every day either wash it if it’s a fabric mask, or dispose of a medical mask in a trash bin. 

Don’t use masks with valves….  

How to make your environment safer 

Avoid the 3Cs: spaces that are closed, crowded or involve close contact. 

Outbreaks have been reported in restaurants, choir practices, fitness classes, nightclubs, offices and places of worship where people have gathered, often in crowded indoor settings where they talk loudly, shout, breathe heavily or sing. 

The risks of getting COVID-19 are higher in crowded and inadequately ventilated spaces where infected people spend long periods of time together in close proximity. These environments are where the virus appears to spreads by respiratory droplets or aerosols more efficiently, so taking precautions is even more important. 

Meet people outside. Outdoor gatherings are safer than indoor ones, particularly if indoor spaces are small and without outdoor air coming in…. 

Avoid crowded or indoor settings but if you can’t, then take precautions: 

Open a window. Increase the amount of ‘natural ventilation’ when indoors…. 

Wear a mask (see above for more details).  

Don’t forget the basics of good hygiene 

Regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water. This eliminates germs including viruses that may be on your hands. 

Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Hands touch many surfaces and can pick up viruses. Once contaminated, hands can transfer the virus to your eyes, nose or mouth. From there, the virus can enter your body and infect you. 

Cover your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then dispose of the used tissue immediately into a closed bin and wash your hands. By following good ‘respiratory hygiene’, you protect the people around you from viruses, which cause colds, flu and COVID-19. 

Clean and disinfect surfaces frequently especially those which are regularly touched, such as door handles, faucets and phone screens.” 

This is a long, but necessary, blog. Just a bit more now. 

I’d wondered why dialysis patients are so much more at risk of Covid-19 and was surprised at how simple and common sense the reasons are. These are gathered from multiple sites that agree that shared rides, the inability to quarantine (since hemodialysis patients usually need to go to a dialysis center), and closer than six feet distancing at the centers (if that’s the case) all contribute to the susceptibility of dialysis patients to Covid-19. 

Please be safe. 

Until next week, 

Keep living your life! 

Just in Time

I woke up this morning thinking about Audre Lorde. She was the New York State Poet at one time and considered herself a “lesbian, mother, warrior, poet,”but more importantly to me, my writing mentor and friend… and I miss her terribly. Thinking about Audre led me to thinking about my younger daughter (Abby) who won the Black History Month Essay Contest in her elementary school several years in a row by writing about Audre’s and my friendship.

That stopped me for a moment. Audre, Abby, Black History Month. This is Black History Month and it’s half over. Time to write about Black History in Nephrology today.

As Andrea Wurtzburger wrote in People Magazine (I knew there was a reason I grabbed this first each time I waited in one medical office or another.) in the February 13, 2020 issue which was also posted at https://www.yahoo.com/entertainment/black-history-month-explained-started-175250248.html,

Black History Month is an entire month devoted to putting a spotlight on African Americans who have made contributions to our country. Originally, it was seen as a way of teaching students and young people about the contributions of Black and African Americans in school, as they had (and still have) been often forgotten or left out of the narrative of the growth of America. Now, it is seen as a celebration of those who’ve impacted not just the country, but the world with their activism and achievements.”

Now that we know what Black History Month is, let’s see how we can apply it to the field of nephrology. This is what I wrote in SlowItDownCKD 2017 (February 7th) about Dr. Kountz:

“Samuel L. Kountz, M.D was another innovative contributor to Nephrology from the Black Community. As Blackpast.org tells us:

“In 1961 Kountz and Roy Cohn, another leading surgeon, performed the first successful kidney transplant between two people who were close relatives but not twins.  Over the next decade Kountz researched the process of kidney transplants on dogs.  He discovered that monitoring blood flow into the new kidney and administering methylprednisolone to the patient after surgery allowed the body to accept the new organ.

In 1966 Kountz joined the faculty at Stanford University Hospital and Medical School and in 1967 he became the chief of the kidney transplant service at University of California at San Francisco (UCSF).  There he worked with Folker Belzer to create the Belzer kidney perfusion machine.  This innovation kept kidneys alive for 50 hours after being removed from the donor.  Through Kountz’s involvement at UCSF, the institution’s kidney transplant research center became one the best in the country.  Kountz also created the Center for Human Values at UCSF, to discuss ethical issues concerning transplants.”

Kidney News Online at https://www.kidneynews.org/careers/resources/opinion-re-establishing-trust-and-improving-outcomes-in-nephrology introduced me to someone who should be noted in Black History Month in the future since the general public needs to be aware of Chronic Kidney Disease in order to be tested and, ultimately, treated. Dr. Bignall echoes my own thoughts.

“O. N. Ray Bignall II, MD is an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Nephrology at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and The Ohio State University College of Medicine. He is also a member of the American Society of Nephrology’s Policy and Advocacy Committee.

‘To re-establish trust and improve outcomes, we must carry health equity from “the bedside to the curbside.” From research and discovery, to policy and advocacy, nephrologists must engage directly with community members, stakeholders, and lawmakers. Minority communities need to see nephrologists in their schools, houses of worship, block parties, and community centers. We can increase our involvement in community-based participatory research (CBPR) that engages community members in the design, study, and implementation of evidence-based discovery. Nephrologists should also be taking our message to city halls, state houses, and our nation’s Capital to promote kidney disease research and advocacy for all our patients – especially those with disparate outcomes.’ ”

I felt compelled to include Dr. Charles DeWitt Watts who, while not a nephrologist, was eminent in breaking racial barriers so we could have Black nephrologists available to us. The following is from Duke University Medical Center and Library at https://guides.mclibrary.duke.edu/BlackHistoryMonth.

“Dr. Watts spent more than 50 years advocating for civil and human rights and for the quality of medical care for all residents of Durham, especially the poor and underserved. He broke racial barriers when he pushed for certification of black medical students.

First African American to be certified by a surgical specialty board in North Carolina.

Played key role in founding Lincoln Community Health Center, a free standing clinic, which served people regardless of their ability to pay.

Joined the staff of Lincoln Hospital as Chief of Surgery in 1950. Lincoln was one of the few American hospitals at the time that granted surgical privileges to African-American physicians.

Completed his surgical training at Freedman’s Hospital in Washington, DC under the tutelage of Dr. Charles Drew.

Worked to prepare Lincoln’s interns and residents for board certification and convinced Duke University Medical School to oversee Lincoln’s training program so that students could get board certified.

Fought along with other community leaders for the creation of one integrated public health care facility, Durham Regional Hospital, built in Durham in 1967. This led to the closing of both Watts and Lincoln hospitals.

Served as Adjunct Clinical Professor of Surgery at Duke and Director of Student Health at North Carolina Central University.

Served for 28 years as Vice President and Medical Director for North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Co., the largest African-American managed insurer in the country.

Member of the National Academy of Science’s Institute of Medicine, a fellow in the American College of Surgeons, and an active participant in the National Medical Association.”

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Auld Lang Syne Already?

It’s the last few days of 2019 and this year has whizzed by. My dance with pancreatic cancer has been a trip I could have done without, but the birth of my grandson more than made up for it. Now I get to see him all the time and I only have one more regiment of chemotherapy to go.

Oh, there I go again assuming everyone knows what Auld Lange Syne is. According to Classic FM at https://www.classicfm.com/discover-music/auld-lang-syne-lyrics-and-origins/:

What does ‘Auld Lang Syne’ mean?

The most accurate plain English interpretation of the Auld Lang Syne’s famous title is ‘Old long since’, or ‘For the sake of old times’.

The song itself is reflective in nature, and is basically about two friends catching up over a drink or two, their friendship having been long and occasionally distant.

The words were written by Scottish poet Robert Burns in 1788, but Burns himself revealed at the time of composing it that he had collected the words after listening to the verse of an old man on his travels, claiming that his version of ‘Auld Lang Syne’ marked the first time it had been formally written down.

However, an earlier ballad by James Watson, named ‘Old Long Syne’, dates as far back as 1711, and use of the title phrase can be found in poems from as early as the 17th century, specifically works by Robert Ayton and Allan Ramsay.”

The song is usually sung at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve and is closely associated with the ending of one year and the beginning of the next. That’s tomorrow night.

Before we leave 2019, let’s take a look at what’s been happening in the kidney world this year.

The ball got rolling, so to speak, with this announcement:

“The Advancing American Kidney Health initiative, announced on July 10, 2019 by the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), places the kidney community in the national spotlight for the first time in decades and outlines a national strategy for kidney diseases for the first time …. In order to achieve the Advancing American Kidney Health initiative’s lofty goals and make good on the KHI’s commitment to people with kidney diseases, drug and device innovation needs to accelerate.”

You can read the entire announcement from the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology at https://cjasn.asnjournals.org/content/early/2019/12/05/CJN.11060919.

The American Kidney Fund at https://www.kidneyfund.org/advocacy-blog/future-of-dialysis-innovation.html announced prizes for innovations in dialysis. We are now in phase two.

“HHS and ASN collaborated with patients, nephrologists, researchers and others in planning the competition. Several agencies, including the National Institutes of Health, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, are involved in this effort. AKF has provided comments to the KidneyX project, urging a focus on unmet needs and improving patient quality of life.

The KidneyX: Redesign Dialysis competition will have two phases. During phase one (late-October 2018-February 2019), innovators will be asked to come up with ideas to ‘replicate normal kidney functions and improve patient quality of life.’ During phase two (April 2019-January 2020), innovators will be asked to develop prototypes to test their ideas.

The HHS press release detailing the competition can be found here.

You can also read my blog about KidneyX by using the topic dropdown on the right side of the blog.

S.1676/H.R 3912 was passed this year, too. According to Renal Support Network at https://www.rsnhope.org/kidney-disease-advocacy/the-chronic-kidney-disease-improvement-in-research-and-treatment-act-of-2019-s-1676/, this is what the act provides:

“Specifically, the legislation does the following:

  • Medigap available to all ESRD Medicare beneficiaries, regardless of age.
  • Improve care coordination for people on dialysis by requiring hospitals to provide an individual’s health and treatment information to their renal dialysis facility upon their discharge. The individual or dialysis facility may initiate the request.
  • Increase awareness, expand preventative services, and improve coordination of the Medicare Kidney Disease Education program by allowing dialysis facilities to provide kidney disease education service. And it will allow physician assistants, nurse practitioners, and clinical nurse specialists, in addition to physicians, to refer patients to the program. And additionally, provide access to these services to Medicare beneficiaries with Stage 5 (CKD) not yet on dialysis.
  • Incentivize innovation for cutting-edge new drugs, biologicals, devices, and other technologies by maintaining an economically stable dialysis infrastructure. The Secretary would be required to establish a process for identifying and determining appropriate payment amounts for incorporating new devices and technologies into the bundle.
  • Improve the accuracy and transparency of ESRD Quality Programs so patients can make better decisions about their care providers.
  • Improve patient understanding of palliative care usage as well as access to palliative care services in underserved areas.
  • Allow individuals with kidney failure to retain access to private insurance plans as their primary payor for 42 months, allowing people to keep their private plans longer.”

I scooted over to EurekAlert! at https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2019-04/uoo-bkd041219.php when I realized they were announcing a drug I’d blogged about:

“’A drug like canagliflozin that improves both cardiovascular and renal outcomes has been eagerly sought by both patients with Type 2 diabetes and clinicians caring for them,’ added Kenneth Mahaffey, MD, professor of medicine at the Stanford University School of Medicine and co-principal investigator of the trial. ‘Now, patients with diabetes have a promising option to guard against one of the most severe risks of their condition.’

The researchers found the drug canagliflozin, a sodium glucose transporter 2 (SGLT2) inhibitor, was less effective at lowering blood sugar in people with reduced kidney function but still led to less kidney failure, heart failure and cardiovascular events such as heart attacks, strokes and death from cardiovascular disease.

Professor Perkovic said the results were impressive. ‘The substantial benefit on kidney failure despite limited effects on blood glucose suggest that these drugs work in a number of different ways beyond their effects on blood sugar. This is an area of intense ongoing research.’”

These are just a few of the innovations in kidney disease in 2019. I hope to see many more for us – like the FDA approval of the artificial kidney – in 2020.

Until next year,

Keep living your life!

Like Life?

A word I hear every few weeks at chemotherapy is Neulasta. I looked it up since I was being given an injection each time I heard the word. I went directly to the manufacturer’s website at https://www.neulasta.com/learn-about-neulasta/ to find out just what it was:

“Neulasta® is a prescription medicine used to help reduce the chance of infection due to a low white blood cell count, in people with certain types of cancer (non-myeloid), who receive anti-cancer medicines (chemotherapy) that can cause fever and low blood cell count.”

But then I needed to define ‘non-myeloid’ for myself. No problem. I called up my old standby The Merriam-Webster Dictionary at https://www.merriam-webster.com/medical/nonmyeloid:

“not being, involving, or affecting bone marrow”

Okay, got it. Neulasta reduces low white blood cell count infection in cancer that doesn’t affect the bone marrow. By the way, this is accomplished by forcing white blood cells – the infection fighting blood cells – to mature quickly.

No sooner did I get that straight in my mind than I started hearing a different word: Udenyca. It turned out that Udenya is a biosimilar for Neulasta. Now we get to the meat of the matter.

Just what is a biosimilar? I took a former English teacher’s stab at the definition and decided it meant ‘like life.’ But does it? The Free Medical Dictionary at https://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/biosimilarity helped us out here:

“biosimilar

(bī′ō-sĭm′ə-lər)

adj.

Highly similar in function and effect to an existing biological product,

especially to a biologic that has al-ready been clinically tested and approved for use.

n.

A biological product that is biosimilar to an existing product,

especially to a biologic”

Keep in mind that an adjective (adj.) describes a noun, while a noun (n.) is a person, place, thing, or idea.

Frankly, I didn’t find this very helpful. So I did what I considered the logical thing and looked to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) website at https://www.fda.gov/media/108905/download for more explanation:

“A biosimilar is a biological product

FDA-approved biosimilars have been compared to an FDA-approved biologic, known as the reference product. Reference and biosimilar products are:

Large and generally complex molecules

Produced from living organisms

Carefully monitored to ensure consistent quality

Meet FDA’s rigorous standards for approval

Are manufactured in FDA-licensed facilities

Are tracked as part of post-market surveillance to ensure continued safety

A biosimilar is highly similar to a reference product

For approval, the structure and function of an approved biosimilar were compared to a reference product, looking at key characteristics such as:

Purity

Molecular structure

Bioactivity

The data from these comparisons must show that the biosimilar is highly similar to the reference product.

A biosimilar has no clinically meaningful differences from a reference product

Studies were performed to show that biosimilars have no clinically meaningful differences in safety, purity or potency (safety and effectiveness) compared to the reference product:

Pharmacokinetic and, if needed, armacodynamic studies

Immunogenicity assessment

Additional clinical studies as needed

Studies may be done independently or combined.

A biosimilar is approved by FDA after rigorous evaluation and testing by the applicant

Prescribers and patients should have no concerns about using these medications instead of reference products because biosimilars:

Meet FDA’s rigorous standards for approval

Are manufactured in FDA-licensed facilities

Are tracked as part of post-market surveillance to ensure continued safety”

Okay! Now we’re talking. Pretty simple to understand, isn’t it? Well, maybe there’s a word or three we might need defined. Let’s take another look. These two definitions are from Dictionary.com.

“Pharmacokinetic – the branch of pharmacology that studies the fate of pharmacological substances in thebody, as their absorption, distribution, metabolism, and elimination.

Immunogenicity – causing or capable of producing an immune response.”

Wikipedia offered this interesting difference between Pharmacokinetic and Pharmacodynamics.

“Pharmacodynamics is the study of how a drug affects an organism, whereas pharmacokinetics is the study of how the organism affects the drug. Both together influence dosing, benefit, and adverse effects.”

The point here is that the synthetic drug and biosimilars are not the same. Maybe my guess at their definition is far off the mark.  And lest you’re beginning to think this is a cancer blog rather than a Chronic Kidney Disease blog, biosimilars are used in CKD, too.

This snippet from the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology (CJASN) at https://cjasn.asnjournals.org/content/early/2018/08/03/CJN.01980218 will give you the idea:

“Most recognizable to nephrologists is the biologic recombinant human erythropoietin (rHuEPO). Considerably more expensive to develop and produce, biologics are more structurally complex than small-molecule drugs. By 2020, biologics will constitute an estimated 27% of spending on worldwide pharmacologics.”

Remember erythropoietin, more commonly known among CKD patients as epo? Not to worry; MedicineNet at https://www.medicinenet.com/erythropoietin/article.htm will remind us:

Erythropoietin (EPO) is a hormone produced by the kidney that promotes the formation of red blood cells by the bone marrow. The kidney cells that make erythropoietin are sensitive to low oxygen levels in the blood that travels through the kidney.”

Un-oh, I almost forgot to explain the difference between biosimilars and biologics. According to the Congressional Research Service at https://fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R44620.pdf:

“A biological product, or biologic, is a preparation, such as a drug or a vaccine, that is made from living organisms. Compared with conventional chemical drugs, biologics are relatively large and complex molecules. They may be composed of proteins (and/or their constituent amino acids), carbohydrates (such as sugars), nucleic acids (such as DNA), or combinations of these substances.

Biologics may also be cells or tissues used in transplantation. A biosimilar, sometimes referred to as a follow-on biologic, is a therapeutic drug that is highly similar but not structurally identical, to a brand-name biologic (i.e., the reference product). This is in contrast to a generic chemical drug, which is an exact copy of a brand-name chemical drug (i.e., the reference listed drug). Because biologics are more complex than chemical drugs, both in composition and method of manufacture, biosimilars will not be exact replicas of the brand-name product, but may instead be shown to be highly similar. However, for many years, the drug industry and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have coped with the inherent variability in biological products from natural sources. FDA maintains that the batch-to-batch and lot-to-lot variability that occurs for both brand-name biologics and biosimilars can be assessed and managed effectively.”

Hmmm, looks like I’ve made a fairly simple concept terribly complex.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Let Your Voice Be Heard

Someone on a Facebook Chronic Kidney Disease Support Group Page asked how we can make others more aware of what CKD patients want. I’ve been tweeting (exchanging remarks on Twitter) with those who could answer this question just recently. How perfect was that?

The first thing the American Society of Nephrology requested is that those of you who are familiar with Twitter, or are willing to become familiar with this social media, join the monthly #AskASN twitter chats. To join Twitter you simply go to Twitter.com and sign yourself up, no special expertise necessary. That pound sign, or as it’s commonly known now – hashtag, before the words signify that this is a person or group with a Twitter account. What comes after the hashtag is your handle, the name you choose for yourself. Mine is – naturally – #SlowItDownCKD. You can search for me on Twitter.

#AskASN is one of the hashtags of the American Society of Nephrology, the ASN which you’ve often seen me quote. Yes, they are respected. Yes, they are doctors. And, yes, they do want to know what we as kidney disease patients want them to know about our lives as their patients. Big hint: their next Twitter Chat will be in late July.

This year’s May 28th blog was about KidneyX, the same topic as June’s Twitter Chat. Here’s a little reminder of what KidneyX stands for:

“Principles

  • Patient-Centered Ensure all product development is patient-centered
  • Urgent Create a sense of urgency to meet the needs of people with kidney diseases
  • Achievable Ground in scientifically-driven technology development
  • Catalytic Reduce regulatory and financial risks to catalyze investment in kidney space
  • Collaborative Foster multidisciplinary collaboration including innovators throughout science and technology, the business community, patients, care partners, and other stakeholders
  • Additive Address barriers to innovation public/private sectors do not otherwise
  • Sustainable Invest in a diverse portfolio to balance risk and sustain KidneyX”

Did you notice that first principle: patient-centered? Or the fifth one: collaborative? We are included in that; we’re the patients.

IDEA Lab is one of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ partners. This is how they define themselves:

“We test and validate solutions to solve challenging problems in the delivery of health and human services.”

And this is what they had to say during the KidneyX Twitter Chat:

HHS IDEA Lab‏Verified account @HHSIDEALabJun 19

Absolutely. Patients are innovators and we need to recognize that #askASN#KidneyX

Patients. They want to hear from us, patients.

Before reproducing a small part of the @AskASN KidneyX Twitter Chat, I want to introduce the players.

Kevin J. Fowler (@gratefull080504) is a patient who has had a preemptive kidney transplant and is highly involved in the patient voice being heard.

Tejas Patel (@GenNextMD) is a nephrologist with a large social media presence who advocates “for halting the progression of ckd so no dialysis or transplant [is necessary].”

James Myers (@kidneystories) is a fairly recent transplant with a strong advocacy for transplant patients.

I’m me; you already know me.

Now, the excerpt:

Thank you @GenNextMD Me too! #AskASNhttps://twitter.com/GenNextMD/status/1009245134964318209 …

Kevin J. Fowler added,

  • Tejas Patel @GenNextMD

Replying to @kidneystories

I am advocating for halting the progression of ckd so no dialysis or transplant #askasn #moonshot

Replying to @gratefull080504@GenNextMD

@GenNextMD That’s what those of us pre-dialysis want, too. The question is how do we do that? As a lay person, I’m at a loss here.

Replying to @Slowitdownckd@gratefull080504

Major undertaking by medical community, organizations (ASN, AAKP, NKF, RPA) and implementation of breakthrough therapies keeping patient central. Engaging all stakeholders will help prioritize what works for patients. Dialogue via formal & social media helps us understand better.

Replying to @GenNextMD@Slowitdownckd@gratefull080504

We recently had patient editorial in @CJASN by @gratefull080504 and interview https://www.kidneynews.org/kidney-news/features/patient-engagement … Lot of work needs to be done

I read the article. I think you should, too. Kevin makes the point that patient voices need to be heard and the nephrologist who was interviewed with him, Dr. Eleanor D. Lederer, agrees.

From reading my blog alone, you’re already familiar with the oft quoted American Society of Nephrology (ASN), American Association of Kidney Patients (AAKP) which was the subject of June 25th blog, and the National Kidney Foundation (NKF), a staple in the blog. But what is the RPA?

Let’s find out. It turns out that this is the Renal Physicians Association. Their website is at https://www.renalmd.org/. If you go there, you’ll notice four different choices. One of them is Advocacy. That’s the one I clicked. Keep in mind that this site is for physicians.

Become An Advocate for Excellence in Nephrology Practice

It is not only your right but also your obligation to let elected officials and policy makers know how you feel about important issues. It is your responsibility to speak out on matters that affect you directly or no one else will. RPA has developed pathways to allow you to do this.

Recognizing that nephrologists and their practice teams have limited time, an easy way to get involved in federal advocacy is by joining the RPA Political Action Committee (PAC) and Nephrology Coverage Advocacy Program (NCAP).

Take Action Nationally!

RPA’s Legislative Action Center (LAC) facilitates the important communication between RPA members and their members of Congress as well as representatives in their state legislatures. The LAC allows RPA members to track the progress of and search for all current legislation being considered by Congress.”

Our doctors are being asked to speak with the government on our behalf. But how will they know what we want or need, you ask. Easy enough: you tell them when you see them. You have regular appointments; that’s when you can talk with them about legislation you feel is necessary.

I never knew how much my opinion is wanted. I never knew how much YOUR opinion is wanted. Now we all know, so how about speaking out, raising your voice, and advocating for yourself. It’s not that scary if you start by just speaking with your doctor.  Although, I’ll be looking for you on ASN’s #askASN Twitter Chat in late July.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Book It!

Every once in a great while, I’ll come across a Chronic Kidney Disease book that I want to share. I think there were only three or four of these in the last six years. Today, I add another one. Dr. Kang, the author, is a local doctor. That was the first thing that caught my eye.

I thought I would be reading the usual information … and I did, but it was written with verve and included some information I hadn’t known. So I did the obvious. I contacted the good doctor to see if he’d be interested in sharing his knowledge with us on the blog. I’m so very glad he agreed.

Dr. Mandip S.Kang, is not only a senior partner in Southwest Kidney Institute right here in Phoenix, but he is also a Fellow in the American Society of Nephrologists I like so much. Just last week, I gleefully accepted their invitation to join the Twitter chat (#AskASN) about staging in CKD and often refer to them in both my blogs and books. He is also the author of the IBPA Gold Award winning book: The Doctor’s Kidney Diets……A Nutritional Guide to Managing and Slowing The Progression of Chronic Kidney Disease, the book that caught my eye.

This is what he wrote for us:

Receiving a diagnosis of kidney disease is not a death sentence for patients, but is often overwhelming and a life changing event. Patients are often confused and the information they receive from different healthcare providers may not be the same. Patients often ask, “What should I do?”

Having experience as a former Assistant Clinical Professor of Medicine at University of Utah School of Medicine and currently as a Senior Nephrologist (kidney specialist), I have gained some insight into how to alleviate my patients’ fears and I have come up with a four point plan that I try to teach my kidney patients. I believe that the role of the physician is to be a teacher and a coach as patients navigate their way into the complexities of a Chronic Kidney Disease diagnosis. I believe that every kidney specialist should have a chalk board in the patient exam rooms and lay out the plan for his or her approach to their patients just like we were taught in schools.

Here is a four point plan that all kidney patients should remember as they visit their kidney specialists and at home. The acronym for the plan is very simple: D.A.M.E.

1. ‘D’ in the acronym stands for diet. The reason I chose diet first comes from the Chinese wisdom in treating any disease: ‘He that takes medicine and neglects diet, wastes the skills of the physician.’ Patients must be taught what the kidney diet is and why they need to follow it for the rest of their lives. Since the kidney diet is complex, they must be provided with educational materials that outline the diet and be strongly encouraged to visit a kidney dietitian who will tell them what and how much to eat.

Dietitians and kidney doctors will teach them about the benefits of eating fresh foods and avoiding processed foods. Patients should remember that the ‘p’ in ‘p’rocessed foods is akin to ‘p’acked with calories. Learning to read a Nutrition Facts label is a must if the doctor wants to do all he or she can to help the patient slow down – and sometimes halt – the progression of kidney disease. It is important to remember that in the earlier stages of kidney disease, the diet may not be as strict – but if progression of the disease is noted, then dietary modifications are more stringent and frequent laboratory tests may need to be performed to assess progress.

2. ‘A’ in the four point CKD plan stands for activity. “What is activity?” you might say. It could mean walking more, taking more steps daily, joining a gym, hiking, biking or any activity that keeps you on your feet. As most Americans already know, the obesity rates in the USA are skyrocketing leading to most chronic health conditions such as Chronic Kidney Disease, Coronary Artery Disease, Stroke, Arthritis, Lung Disease, etc. These chronic health conditions stem from lack of activity and consuming excessive calories. Many patients lead a sedentary lifestyle such as watching TV for long hours which leads to worsening of their health issues. Patients should be encouraged to do the activities they enjoy the most such as dancing, or walking in a park or on a beach. Patients should weigh themselves on a weekly basis to monitor their weight.

3. ‘M’ in the acronym stands for medications that your doctor prescribes. Your doctor may also tell you not to take certain over the counter medications that may harm your kidneys such as Advil, Motrin, Aleve, Ibuprofen, Celebrex, Prilosec, herbal remedies, etc. I encourage all patients to memorize their medications and keep a list with them at all times. Remember that all medications are prescribed because the benefit to the patient outweighs the risk and no medication is entirely safe; therefore, it should be taken as prescribed and any side effects reported to your doctor. You should not take any new medicine unless it has been cleared by your kidney specialist.

4. ‘E’ in the above acronym stands for education. This is the key element in the D.A.M.E plan to treat patients with CKD. Unless the patient has a clear understanding of their disease process, labs, treatment plan, and the role of diet, activity, and medications, they will not be successful in managing and slowing the progression of Chronic Kidney Disease. How well a patient does will depend on their knowledge of their disease and if they comply with the instructions given to them by the kidney doctors.

I hope that all kidney doctors and patients keep the D.A.M.E. acronym in mind. Patients who are active participants in their care lead healthier and productive lives. I wish all of the readers well.

I hadn’t heard of the D.A.M.E. method before but I like it, especially “the ‘p’ in ‘p’rocessed foods is akin to ‘p’acked with calories.” Many thanks, Dr. Kang, for introducing this common sense theme to us.

Until next week,
Keep living your life!