HARRISON, OH – Despite having her tap water tested, refraining from drinking soda from cans and carefully examining the labels of her food and makeup, Angie Caudill continued to experience the levels of one potentially toxic ingredient rising in her blood: aluminum. “I did everything they told me to do,” said Caudill, “and it kept getting higher and higher.”
Caudill was diagnosed with kidney disease and has spent the last year using a home dialysis system. In June 2014 she learned that the fluid she used for her dialysis treatment contained excess amounts of aluminum. The company that sold the fluid was NxStage Medical Inc. based out of Lawrence, Massachusetts. It is estimated that NxStage sold between 140,000 to 150,000 units of the fluid made between April 2013 and February 2014. NxStage declined to make a statement on how many patients were estimated to have been affected.
On May 15, 2014, NxStage voluntarily recalled the fluid which is used specifically for home dialysis treatment. Home dialysis, often referred to as peritoneal dialysis, differs from dialysis treatment offered in a hospital or dialysis center. Home dialysis is administered by the patient and does not require a trained dialysis technician or nurse to assist with the procedures. NxStage differs from this process. They have developed a dialysis machine that is portable enough to use in the home. The company says they are working with regulators to determine what caused the problem.
NxStage says there is no evidence that patients were harmed by the aluminum rich dialysis fluid, but the recall has upset many patients who have been using the fluid regularly. The main reason patients are on dialysis is because their kidneys are unable to clean wastes and toxins from the blood. Instead, they rely on dialysis fluids, like those provided by NxStage, to take the place of natural kidney functions. Finding out that the fluid they use is contaminated has been quite disturbing.
Aluminum is found in many products, including anti-persperants, antacids, cookware and baking soda. In general it is not harmful. However, high exposure over time can cause aluminum to build up in the body resulting in bone disease, memory loss and even dementia. People with kidney problems are especially at risk because their body has a more difficult time filtering out the metal.
Caudill said, “Patients are mad that there was no check in place because it’s something people depend on. Their life depends on it.” Another dialysis patient using NxStage’s dialysis fluid named Mark Wetzel of Elma, NY said the aluminum made him weak and his mouth was often dry with a metallic taste. He utilized NxStage’s fluid on and off for more than nine years.
NxStage was founded in 1998 and makes the only portable home dialysis machine on the market. The company expects to grow as more patients are switching to home dialysis treatments.