(HealthDay)—Although use of recombinant human erythropoietin (rHuEPO) is prohibited among athletes because it reportedly enhances performance, there is no scientific evidence that it does so, according to a study published online Dec. 6 in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology.
Jules A.A.C. Heuberger, from Leiden University in the Netherlands, and colleagues reviewed 13 studies in the scientific and medical literature examining the effect of rHuEPO on endurance performance.
The researchers found that no study specifically addressed elite athletes. Most studies used forms of rHuEPO with half-lives similar to endogenous erythropoietin. Only eight studies were placebo controlled, and only five of these were reported to be double-blinded. Hemoglobin concentration, hematocrit, and oxygen consumption increased after rHuEPO treatment. However, the authors note that the only parameters associated with enhanced performance are lactate threshold, respiratory compensation point, and work economy. In addition, published case reports have linked rHuEPO to adverse cardiovascular effects among cyclists.
"rHuEPO use in cycling is rife but scientifically unsupported by evidence and its use in sports is medical malpractice," Heuberger and colleagues conclude. "The situation with rHuEPO use in athletes is analogous to the many forms of non-evidence-based treatments that exist in medical practice and which by common opinion should be refuted or confirmed by good clinical trials with real life end points."