Study targets kidney failure in blacks

October 27, 1994|By Orlando Sentinel

In the United States, which has the highest death rate from kidney failure in the world, kidney shutdown strikes black Americans at four times the rate of whites.

In response to the crisis, the National Institutes of Health announced yesterday in Orlando, Fla., that it was beginning a nationwide study of hypertension and kidney failure in black Americans.

While there are myriad reasons why kidneys fail, hypertension is a primary reason why blacks wind up on dialysis and, ultimately, on lists for transplants.

The new investigation -- known as AASK, for African American Study on Kidney Disease -- will seek to prevent kidney failure in blacks with hypertension.

Black Americans constitute about 12 percent of the nation's population, yet an estimated 26 percent of all Americans with kidney failure are black.

Doctors participating in the study are seeking volunteers who want to lower their blood pressure and increase their chances of preserving their kidneys. The announcement was made at the American Society of Nephrology meeting.

"There is a high incidence of hypertension in the black community that is not recognized, so we're trying to combat this at several angles," said Jane Demouy of the NIH.

An effort will be made to have people get their blood pressure checked by their doctors, she said. About 1,000 people are being sought for the nationwide investigation, in which participants will take one of three medications to lower blood pressure.

Recruitment probably won't begin until January, Ms. Demouy added, after the study's procedures are set. Volunteers will get the medication free of charge and will be monitored by doctors and nurses participating in the study.

Dr. Lawrence Agodoa, the NIH kidney specialist in charge of the trial, said it should reveal if doctors need to get patients to blood pressure levels lower than those usually sought.

For example, the usual target blood pressure for those with hypertension is about 140 over 90. To preserve the kidneys, however, the blood pressure may have to be lowered to about 125 over 75.

Ms. Demouy said all three medications are currently prescribed to treat hypertension.

However, each of the drugs goes about lowering blood pressure differently, which will help researchers learn more about lowering blood pressure and preserving the kidneys.

The $52 million investigation, funded by the NIH's Office of Research on Minority Health, will continue for seven years. Results will be available in the year 2001.

Treating a person for kidney failure costs an average of about $47,000 a year. All told, the bill for treating black Americans totals about $1 billion a year, a tab that's paid through a combination of federal, state and private insurance money.

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