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Blood Adv. 2018 Oct 23;2(20):2681-2690. doi: 10.1182/bloodadvances.2018021436.

The impact of phlebotomy and hydroxyurea on survival and risk of thrombosis among older patients with polycythemia vera.

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Section of Hematology, Department of Internal Medicine, School of Medicine.
Department of Chronic Disease Epidemiology, School of Public Health.
Cancer Outcomes, Public Policy, and Effectiveness Research Center, and.
Department of Health Policy and Management, School of Public Health, Yale University, New Haven, CT.


Current guidelines recommend therapeutic phlebotomy for all polycythemia vera (PV) patients and additional cytoreductive therapy (eg, hydroxyurea [HU]) for high-risk PV patients. Little is known about the impact of these therapies in the real-world setting. We conducted a retrospective cohort study of older adults diagnosed with PV from 2007 to 2013 using the linked Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results-Medicare database. Multivariable Cox proportional hazards models were used to assess the effect of phlebotomy and HU on overall survival (OS) and the occurrence of thrombotic events. Of 820 PV patients (median age = 77 years), 16.3% received neither phlebotomy nor HU, 23.0% were managed with phlebotomy only, 19.6% with HU only, and 41.1% with both treatments. After a median follow-up of 2.83 years, 37.2% (n = 305) of the patients died. Phlebotomy (yes/no; hazard ratio [HR] = 0.65; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.51-0.81; P < .01), increasing phlebotomy intensity (HR = 0.71; 95% CI, 0.65-0.79; P < .01), and a higher proportion of days covered (PDC) by HU were all significantly associated with lower mortality. When thrombosis was the outcome of interest, phlebotomy (yes/no; HR = 0.52; 95% CI, 0.42-0.66; P < .01) and increasing phlebotomy intensity (HR = 0.46; 95% CI, 0.29-0.74; P < .01) were significantly associated with a lower risk of thrombotic events, so was a higher HU PDC. In this population-based study of older adults with PV reflecting contemporary clinical practice, phlebotomy and HU were associated with improved OS and decreased risk of thrombosis. However, both treatment modalities were underused in this cohort of older PV patients.

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