|Epoetin from pharmacy|
Yes, this is not the medication Lance Armstrong famously used to dope on, but its more pure form erythropoietin which can be found naturally in the human body. This protein is a hormone produced by the kidneys to regular red blood cell production, stimulating new blood vessels (helpful in injuries), some forms of high blood pressure, and many other unknown good effects.
We are still in the process of understanding how this works in our body in a whole. But its main function of stimulating the creation of red blood cells is the main reason it was produced in mass amounts.
People who have kidney problems, actually people who do not have working kidneys frequently need EPO. Without EPO they are at high risk of anemia, because their body lacks the signal to make more red blood cells. Without red blood cells to carry oxygen, they might not live long enough...
Hence, people on dialysis here in Australia qualify for regular EPO injections, but in doing so raises their risk of blood clots and them travelling through the blood vessels and blocking them: thromboembolic. Because they create more red blood cells, too much makes the blood thicker (more viscous) and with increased platelet counts, making it more likely for clots to form and block vessels.
It is a careful balancing act between too much and too little, not to mention the cost to maintain a good risk versus benefit for the patient. Since it is covered by the government for some patients, the cost it incurs when it is not use to its maximum effect.
It cost almost $1100 give or take depending on dose for a box of Eprex 5000 (above pic), without government assistance, people's lives will be quite difficult.
Sometimes I wish we can print this price tag on, just to show how much the government is doing for its people via our National Health Scheme here in Australia.