Recent advances in the treatment of uremic pruritus
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Purpose of reviewThis article provides a focused update on uremic pruritus, highlighting the latest evidence concerning the epidemiology, pathophysiology, and treatment options for this common and bothersome condition.
Recent findingsHalf of dialysis patients and a quarter of those with nondialysis chronic kidney disease experience bothersome itch that reduces quality of life and is increasingly recognized to be associated with poor outcomes including mortality. The KALM-1 trial, which reported effective symptomatic relief with difelikefalin, has bolstered support for the role of an imbalance of μ and κ-opioid receptor activity in pruritogenesis. The role of a chronic inflammatory state, increased cytokine levels and altered immune signaling in pruritogenic nerve activation continues to be elucidated with basic science, which paves the wave for future novel therapeutics. In the meantime, gabapentin appears to be the most evidence-based widely available uremic pruritus treatment, as long as care is taken with dosing and monitoring of side-effects.
SummaryUremic pruritus remains a top research priority. Patients with uremic pruritus may be able to look forward to a new decade of understanding, knowledge, and novel treatment options for this burdensome condition. As difelikefalin and other potential agents come to market, cost-effectiveness assessments of these interventions will help determine if the widespread use of them is feasible amongst renal programs.
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