Cheap gout drug shows promise in kidney disease

* Small trial shows gout drug helps chronic kidney patients

* Heart risk cut by 71 pct, hospitalisations down 62 pct

* Larger studies seen needed to confirm results

LONDON, June 10 (Reuters) - A drug commonly used to treat gout may help patients with chronic kidney disease keep their condition in check and reduce the risk of heart problems, Spanish scientists said on Thursday.

Researchers from Madrid studied just over 100 patients and found that treatment with allopurinol, a generic drug which has been used for 40 years to treat gout, reduced inflammation in kidney patients, slowed the progression of their disease and cut the risk of heart problems or hospitalisation.

The study is the second in a week to find new potential uses for allopurinol. Research published on Tuesday found it may be useful as a cheaper alternative to more modern heart drugs from Switzerland's Roche ROG.VX and France's Servier for patients with chronic chest pain. [ID:nLDE65709D]

Allopurinol is used primarily to treat people with excess uric acid in their blood -- a condition known as hyperuricemia.

Hyperuricemia can lead to gout and, in extreme cases, to kidney failure. High uric acid levels can also increase the risk of developing high blood pressure and heart disease.

Patients with chronic kidney disease (CKD) -- who most often die from heart disease -- often experience hyperuricemia, but this was the first study to assess whether allopurinal would be effective for these patients.

Around 26 million Americans have CKD and the UK’s Association of Public Health Observatories estimates that 8.8 percent of the British population also suffers from it.

There is no specific treatment but patients often take medicines to control the factors that may be causing it, such as high blood pressure or diabetes.

Marian Goicoechea and a team of scientists from the Hospital General Universitario Gregorio Maranon in Madrid conducted a trial involving 113 chronic kidney disease patients who either received allopurinol or continued taking their usual drugs.

The researchers analysed kidney disease progression, cardiovascular problems such as heart attacks, and hospitalisations among patients in the study over two years.

In patients taking allopurinol they found that kidney function improved and blood levels of uric acid and C-reactive protein -- a sign of inflammation -- fell significantly.

Allopurinol treatment also reduced the risk of heart problems by 71 percent compared with just taking the usual medicines, and cut the risk of hospitalisations by 62 percent.

The findings were published in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology (CJASN).

The researchers said although that allopurinol showed significant potential benefits for CKD patients, “these results have to be confirmed in larger prospective trials and are the basis for a hypothesis that still needs to be tested.” (Editing by Greg Mahlich)