Tuesday, November 21, 2006

EPO -The Scourge of Cycling- Linked to Heart Risks?

An anti-anemia drug used by chronic kidney disease sufferers may pose health problems accordnig to a recent study. You can find the abstract of the study in the NEJM.

Scientists found aggressive efforts to boost red blood cell production with erythropoietin (EPO) may increase the risk of heart failure in one study and could increase the need for dialysis according to another study.

EPO is sold under the names Eprex, NeoRecormon, and Aranesp. It is an artificial hormone that allows the blood to carry more oxygen, thus boosting endurance. It has been favored by endurance athletes and has saturated such sports as professional cycling and cross-country skiing.

First introduced into the world of cycling in the late 1980s, EPO gained notoriety during the 1998 Tour de France. Beginning with EPO and other doping drugs discovered by border police in the car of a masseuse for one of the cycling teams, the scandal progressed to riders being detained and questioned, with several admitting to taking doping drugs.

Now, the Harvard Medical School said patients who were treated aggressively were nearly 50% more likely to experience heart problems than patients in the low-hemoglobin group. Harvard's Medical School also published a report on EPO and blood doping.

For more information, go here.