With increasing recognition of problems regarding the use of aluminum hydroxide as a phosphate binder, calcium carbonate has become the medication of choice. Use of calcium has, however, frequently been associated with development of hypercalcemia. At this institution, calcium carbonate powder as a phosphate binder, examination of its efficacy, and the frequency of hypercalcemia with its use were of great interest. Calcium carbonate powder (CalCarb-HD, 2.4 gms elemental calcium/packet) (CalCarb-HD, Lafayette Pharmacal Inc., Fort Worth, TX) was used in the study. Twenty-one end-stage renal disease (ESRD) patients (17 hemodialysis and 4 chronic ambulatory peritoneal dialysis) were chosen and converted from their previous binder (primarily, calcium carbonate tablets) to calcium powder. The dosage was adjusted to keep phosphorus levels at 3.5 to 5.5 mg/dl and calcium < 11.5 mg/dl. At 2 months, the average calcium level in the 16 patients remaining in the study was 9.2 mg/dl, and the average phosphorus level was 5.2 mg/dl with an average calcium dose of 1.4 packets/day. By 7 months, the 8 patients remaining in the study had an average calcium level of 9.9 mg/dl with an average phosphorus level of 5.5 mg/dl; average calcium dose was 1.8 packets/day. Total episodes of hypercalcemia (calcium greater than 11.5 mg/dl) were two. Calcium carbonate powder appears to be an effective phosphate binder in the ESRD population. The relatively few episodes of hypercalcemia may be related to possible enhanced bioavailability of the compound secondary to its powdered form.
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