ESRD represents a major health problem. The number of patients who enter kidney replacement programs has increased at an average of 7% per year in the past 10 yr. A large number of experimental and clinical studies have demonstrated that chronic nephropathies share common pathogenic mechanisms that contribute to renal disease progression, even independent of the original cause. Clinical studies found a significant correlation between the extent of urinary protein excretion and the rate of GFR decline in both diabetic and nondiabetic chronic nephropathies. Randomized trials, in particular the Ramipril Efficacy In Nephropathy (REIN) study, also showed that treatments that reduce proteinuria (namely angiotensin-converting enzyme [ACE] inhibitors) are renoprotective and limit progression to ESRD. Meta-analyses of randomized clinical trials also evaluated the role of proteinuria and of ACE inhibition therapy in chronic renal disease progression. Their findings were consistent with those of the REIN study and confirmed in larger series of patients the predictive value of proteinuria and the renoprotective effect of proteinuria reduction by ACE inhibition therapy. Thus, the meta-analyses may confirm and extend previous findings generated by randomized clinical trials. Conceivably, well-designed studies in properly selected and carefully monitored patients who are at increased risk continue to be the best approach to test novel hypotheses. The meta-analyses, however, represent a valuable tool to evaluate the consistency and generalizability of trial results to larger cohorts of patients.
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