Researchers ask “Can Sodium bicarbonate improve Quality of Life in Chronic Kidney Disease?”

Researchers from the University of Dundee and NHS Tayside are to lead a £1.2million UK-wide project, funded by the National Institute for Health Research Health Technology Assessment (NIHR HTA) Programme, to investigate the role of Sodium bicarbonate in improving physical function and quality of life for older people with advanced Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD).

Between 20-25% of people over the age of 65 have some degree of kidney disease and often have high levels of acid in their blood (acidosis). This increase in acid may cause muscle weakness and tiredness, as well as further problems with blood vessels, kidneys and bone health.

“Acid in the blood is commonly treated with Sodium bicarbonate, a substance found in baking powder. However, there is no conclusive evidence of its effectiveness or universal prescribing guidelines. If found to be effective Sodium bicarbonate could be a safe and inexpensive treatment,” said Dr Miles Witham, Senior Clinical Lecturer in Ageing and Health at the University of Dundee, who is leading the study.
“This study aims to provide evidence to help doctors and patients make an informed decision about treatment.”
The BiCARB study involves colleagues in the University of Aberdeen, University of Kent, and Kings College London.
It will be carried out with the collaboration of NHS colleagues in NHS Tayside, NHS Grampian, East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust, Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust, Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust and Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.
The study will recruit 380 patients with CKD from six NHS trusts throughout the UK. Each participant will be allocated at random to receive either Sodium bicarbonate or placebo. Neither the patient nor the study team know which tablets the patient will be taking.
Patients will be in the trial for 2 years and will be randomly allocated to take either Sodium bicarbonate or placebo (dummy) tablets three times a day. The patients will be assessed before they start the tablets and regularly during the 2 years they are in the trial. The results of their assessments will be examined to compare whether the patients taking the Sodium bicarbonate tablets improve their physical function and quality of life more than the patients taking the placebo tablets.
Mr Alex Stephen, a transplant patient in Dundee, has been appointed as the Patient Representative. “A lay summary will be produced and be available via newsletters and the website so that patients will have a better understanding of progress throughout the study period,” said Mr Stephen.
The study will measure physical fitness and quality of life as well as bone health, blood vessel health and will also test whether sodium bicarbonate slows down the progression of kidney disease.

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