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BACKGROUND: Phlebotomy is standard maintenance treatment of patients with hereditary hemochromatosis (HH). Erythrocytapheresis, which selectively removes red blood cells, provides a new, potentially more effective treatment option. Our aim was to evaluate the effectiveness of erythrocytapheresis over phlebotomy for maintenance therapy in patients with HH.

STUDY DESIGN AND METHODS: We conducted a two-treatment-arms, randomized, crossover clinical trial, involving 46 patients, treated for 1 year with either erythrocytapheresis or phlebotomy to keep the ferritin level at not more than 50 [mu]g/L. After 1 year, patients were switched to the other treatment modality. Primary endpoint was the number of treatment procedures per treatment year. Secondary endpoints were intertreatment intervals, several aspects of health-related quality of life, costs, and patient discomfort as well as preference for one of both treatments.

RESULTS: The mean number of required treatment procedures per treatment year was significantly higher using phlebotomy versus erythrocytapheresis (3.3 vs. 1.9; mean difference, 1.4; 95% confidence interval, 1.1-1.7). The median intertreatment time was 2.3 times longer for erythrocytapheresis. There was no significant difference in overall health assessed by SF-36 and EQ-5D, respectively, between both treatments arms. The number of self-reported swollen joints was significantly higher during phlebotomy treatment. The mean treatment costs of one treatment year were 235[Euro sign] for phlebotomy versus 511[Euro sign] for erythrocytapheresis. Eighty percent of patients preferred erythrocytapheresis as treatment method.

CONCLUSION: Erythrocytapheresis significantly reduced the number of treatment procedures per treatment year, although the mean treatment costs per year are higher in our health care system. It is the preferred treatment for the majority of patients.

(C) 2016 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd