CKD Screening in All Adults Found Cost-Effective

Screening for and treating chronic kidney disease (CKD) in all U.S. adults 35-75 years old is cost effective using a strategy that starts by measuring their urine albumin-creatinine ratio (UACR) followed by confirmatory tests and treatment of confirmed cases with current standard-care medications, according to an analysis published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

This new evidence may prove important as the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has begun revisiting its 2012 conclusion that “evidence is insufficient to assess the balance of benefits and harms of routine screening for chronic kidney disease in asymptomatic adults.”

A big difference between 2012 and today has been that sodium-glucose cotransporter 2 (SGLT2) inhibitors arrived on the scene as an important complement to well-established treatment with an angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitor or angiotensin receptor blocker. SGLT2 inhibitors have been documented as safe and effective for slowing CKD progression regardless of a person’s diabetes status, and have “dramatically altered” first-line treatment of adults with CKD, wrote the authors of the new study.

“Large population health gains” from CKD screening

“Given the high prevalence of CKD, even among those without risk factors, low-cost screening combined with effective treatment using SGLT2 inhibitors represent value,” explained Marika M. Cusick, lead author of the report, a PhD student, and a health policy researcher at Stanford (Calif.) University. “Our results show large population health gains can be achieved through CKD screening,” she said in an interview.

“This is a well-designed cost-effectiveness analysis that, importantly, considers newer treatments shown to be effective for slowing progression of CKD. The overall findings are convincing,” commented Deidra C. Crews, MD, a nephrologist and professor at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore who was not involved in the research.

Dr. Crews, who is also  president-elect  of the American Society of Nephrology noted that the findings “may be a conservative estimate of the cost-effectiveness of CKD screening in certain subgroups, particularly when considering profound racial, ethnic and socioeconomic disparities in survival and CKD progression.”

The USPSTF starts a relook

The new evidence of cost-effectiveness of routine CKD screening follows the USPSTF’s release in January 2023 of a draft research plan to reassess the potential role for CKD screening of asymptomatic adults in the United States, the first step on a potential path to a revised set of recommendations. Public comment on the draft plan closed in February, and based on the standard USPSTF development steps and time frames, a final recommendation statement could appear by early 2026.

Revisiting the prior USPSTF decision from 2012 received endorsement earlier in 2023 from the ASN. The organization issued a statement last January that cited “more than a decade of advocacy in support of more kidney health screening by ASN and other stakeholders dedicated to intervening earlier to slow or stop the progression of kidney diseases.”

A more detailed letter of support for CKD screening sent to top USPSTF officials followed in February 2023 from ASN president Michelle A. Josephson, MD, who said in part that “ASN believes that kidney care is at an inflection point. There are now far more novel therapeutics to slow the progression of CKD, evidence to support the impact of nonpharmacologic interventions on CKD, and an increased commitment in public health to confront disparities and their causes.”

USPSTF recommendation could make a difference

Dr. Josephson also cited the modest effect that CKD screening recommendations from other groups have had up to now.

“Although guidance from Kidney Disease Improving Global Outcomes and the National Kidney Foundation recommends CKD screening among patients with hypertension, only approximately 10% of individuals with hypertension receive yearly screening. Furthermore, American Diabetes Association guidelines recommend yearly CKD screening in patients with diabetes, but only 40%-50% of patients receive this.”

“USPSTF recommendations tend to reach clinicians in primary care settings, where screening for diseases most commonly occurs, much more than recommendations from professional or patient organizations,” Dr. Crews said in an interview. “USPSTF recommendations also often influence health policies that might financially incentivize clinicians and health systems to screen their patients.”

“We hope [the USPSTF] will be interested in including our results within the totality of evidence assessed in their review of CKD screening,” said Ms. Cusick.

Preventing hundreds of thousands dialysis cases

The Stanford researchers developed a decision analytic Markov cohort model of CKD progression in U.S. adults aged 35 years or older and fit their model to data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). They found that implementing one-time screening and adding SGLT2 inhibitors to treatment of the 158 million U.S. adults 35-75 years old would prevent the need for kidney replacement therapy (dialysis or transplant) in approximately 398,000 people over their lifetimes, representing a 10% decrease in such cases, compared with the status quo. Screening every 10 or 5 years combined with SGLT2 inhibitors would prevent approximately 598,000 or 658,000 people, respectively, from requiring kidney replacement therapy, compared with not screening.

Analysis showed that one-time screening produced an incremental cost-effectiveness ratio of $86,300 per quality-adjusted life-year (QALY) gained when one-time screening occurred in adults when they reached 55 years old. Screening every 10 years until people became 75 years old cost $98,400 per QALY gained for this group when adults were 35 years old, and $89,800 per QALY gained when screening occurred at 65 years old. These QALY costs are less than “commonly used” U.S. thresholds for acceptable cost-effectiveness of $100,000-$150,000 per QALY gained, the authors said.

Ms. Cusick highlighted the advantages of population-level screening for all U.S. adults, including those who are asymptomatic, compared with focusing on adults with risk factors, such as hypertension or diabetes.

“While risk-based screening can be more cost effective in some settings, risk factors are not always known, especially in marginalized and disadvantaged populations. This may lead to disparities in the use of screening and downstream health outcomes that could be avoided through universal screening policies,” she explained.

The study received no commercial funding. Ms. Cusick had no disclosures. Dr. Crews has received research grants from Somatus. Dr. Josephson has been a consultant to Exosome Diagnostics, IMMUCOR, Labcorp, Otsuka, UBC, and Vera Therapeutics, and has an ownership interest in Seagen.

This article originally appeared on, part of the Medscape Professional Network.

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