This commentary discusses two recent publications by Weir et al. and Packham et al. in The New England Journal of Medicine on the efficacy of two novel potassium binders, sodium zirconium cyclosilicate and patiromer. In a similar manner to existing potassium binders, these drugs exchange dietary potassium for either sodium or calcium in the gut, thereby preventing absorption of potassium. Both drugs were tested against placebo in patients with chronic kidney disease who developed hyperkalaemia because they were also using renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system (RAAS) inhibitors. Both drugs lowered serum potassium effectively and were tolerated reasonably well. A strong point in the trials is that the new potassium binders allow patients to continue using RAAS inhibitors. By doing so, these patients with high cardiovascular risk may continue to benefit from the protective effects of RAAS inhibitors. Limitations include the relatively short treatment period, the lack of a control group using existing potassium binders, and the exclusion of patients with severe or symptomatic hyperkalaemia.
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