Chronic kidney disease: an unmet need for early diagnosis and treatment

Published on 24 June 2020 Read 25 min

The number of people suffering from chronic kidney disease is rising. Today, for example, we know that about 40% of diabetic patients develop chronic kidney disease. They currently represent 160 million people. This number is expected to increase as the prevalence of diabetes will continue to rise in the coming years. Despite these growing figures, patients with chronic kidney disease are often undiagnosed and suffer severe consequences. How is this possible? How does it affect patients and what are future possibilities for improvement?

What is chronic kidney disease?

Normally, kidneys filter waste and extra water out of your blood, making urine. Kidneys are also involved in supporting vitamin D production and producing the hormones regulating red blood cells production and blood pressure.

In patients with chronic kidney disease, the kidneys are damaged and cannot filter blood the way they should. Patients gradually lose their kidney function over a period of months to years. CKD can eventually result in kidney failure. Patients with kidney failure need regular dialysis or even a kidney transplant.

Chronic kidney disease is known as a ‘disease multiplier’. Patients with CKD are at risk of developing a broad range of comorbidities including cardiovascular disease, retinopathy, liver disease, hypertension, and reduced bone mineral health. A lack of awareness of CKD is one of the reasons why both chronic kidney disease and its comorbidities often go undiagnosed.

The impact of chronic kidney disease

As the world’s population is aging and obesity prevalence is increasing, it is expected that the number of patients with CKD will increase. Chronic kidney disease and its consequences have a major impact on the quality of life for patients. Studies show that the quality of life decreases for all stages of kidney disease. The disease has severe consequences for social aspects, vitality and mental health due to the intense changes patients have to make because of their diagnosis and progress of the disease.

Furthermore, the increasing number of patients with CKD raises concerns about society’s capacity to manage its economic burden. The disease places a burden on the medical care budget by costs associated with the detection and management of CKD treatment, and the simultaneous management of the comorbid conditions. On top of that, CKD causes significant productivity losses for patients and their caregivers in terms of absenteeism from work and premature death. The reported costs for a patient with CKD is approximately USD 20,000 in the first stages of the disease. However, the mean cost increase exponentially with advancing stage towards more than USD 120,000 per year.

An unmet need for early diagnosis and treatment

Although more than 60% of the patients suffering from CKD develop also cardiovascular disease, only 12% of them are diagnosed. Besides, CKD is often diagnosed too late, making it hard prevent adverse health outcomes for patients. Yet the disease can be slowed or even averted if diagnosed early. Interventions include tobacco control, promotion of physical activity and counseling for cardiovascular disease.

Although treatments able to target the symptoms from CKD exists, there are no treatments that specifically target the causes of CKD yet. As the number of patients suffering is rising steadily, the need for targeted treatment of the causes of CKD is growing.

Therefore, earlier detection, regular checkups, and the development of new types of medication are key to improve future healthcare outcomes for patients suffering from chronic kidney disease.


Efforts must be placed on awareness of chronic kidney disease and its unmet need for early diagnosis and treatment. Increased awareness will lead to more attention for the disease by medical specialists and will most likely lead to earlier detection. Furthermore, increased awareness will stress the urgent need for drugs that specifically target the causes of CKD, thereby stimulating the market to develop new drugs. Alcimed will keep on watching this important and exciting market for you!

About the author

Hannah, Consultant in Alcimed’s Healthcare team in Germany

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