updated 3/9/2004 3:03:45 PM ET 2004-03-09T20:03:45

A new drug shown to reduce calcium levels in dialysis patients was approved Monday by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and should be available in the next few weeks, company officials said.

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In clinical trials involving more than 1,100 patients, the Amgen Inc. drug Sensipar was shown to reduce high-levels of key bone-minerals including calcium in dialysis patients, said Kelly Stoddard, a company spokeswoman.

Too much calcium in the body can cause sometimes-fatal calcification of the bones, blood vessels and cardiovascular system, Stoddard said.

Often, high bone-mineral levels are the result of a condition known as secondary HPT or hyperparathyroidism, a metabolic disorder usually developed by chronic kidney disease patients on dialysis, Stoddard said. Nearly all of the more than 300,000 dialysis patients in the U.S. suffer from the condition.

The drug was also shown to lower calcium in patients with elevated levels due to parathyroid cancer. Common side effects include nausea and vomiting.

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