(HealthDay News) — Inhibition of interleukin-1β (IL-1β) with canakinumab is associated with reduced incident anemia as well as improved hemoglobin levels among patients with baseline anemia, according to research published online March 24 in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Mounica Vallurupalli, M.D., from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, and colleagues conducted an exploratory analysis of a multicenter randomized controlled trial. A total of 8,683 Canakinumab Anti-inflammatory Thrombosis Outcomes Study participants without anemia at trial entry and 1,303 with prevalent anemia at trial entry were randomly assigned to receive either placebo or canakinumab once every three months.

The researchers found that the incidence of anemia increased with rising baseline levels of high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hsCRP); participants receiving canakinumab versus placebo had decreased hsCRP and IL-6. Participants without baseline anemia who received canakinumab had significantly less incident anemia than those who received placebo during a median follow-up of 3.7 years (hazard ratio, 0.84). The greatest benefits of canakinumab versus placebo on incident anemia were seen for participants with the most robust anti-inflammatory response. After two years of treatment, canakinumab increased mean hemoglobin levels by 11.3 g/L compared with placebo among those with baseline anemia.

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“These hypothesis-generating data highlight the role of IL-1β/IL-6 pathway signaling in anemia onset in a large population with chronic inflammation and motivate the design of prospective confirmatory studies to identify populations that might benefit from anti-inflammatory therapies for anemia,” the authors write.

Several authors disclosed financial ties to pharmaceutical companies, including Novartis, which manufactures canakinumab and funded the study.

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