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Dr. Marcello Tonelli

2013 Medal for Research Excellence
University of Alberta
“Dr. Tonelli’s work has shaped national and international clinical practice guidelines for the management of lipid abnormalities in kidney patients.”
- Dr. Barbara Ballermann, Chair of the Department of Medicine and Professor of Medicine at the University of Alberta.

The Kidney Foundation of Canada’s 2013 Medal for Research Excellence was awarded to Dr. Marcello Tonelli, the first clinician-researcher to show that statin treatment is effective in managing the cardiovascular risk associated with the early stages of chronic kidney disease. Dr. Tonelli’s innovative research has changed Canadian drug policy, improved the health of vulnerable populations, and informed both national and international clinical practice.

People with chronic kidney disease are at increased risk for cardiovascular events and are more likely to die of heart failure than to develop kidney failure. Dr. Tonelli’s ground-breaking research in the area of cholesterol reduction led the way in improving treatment for these patients. His more recent research indicates that statin therapy may also reduce the rate of kidney function loss and lessen the risk of acute kidney failure.

At the population health level, Dr. Tonelli’s work has changed Canadian drug policy. His economic analyses are frequently cited when evaluating the cost versus health benefit of two drugs central to the treatment and long-term survival of dialysis patients: erythropoietin (used to help control blood pressure) and Sevelamer (used to manage high blood levels of phosphorous, a mineral whose build up can cause heart problems).

More recently, his finding that remote-dwelling patients with kidney failure are more likely to die due to lack of access to kidney transplantation as a mode of treatment, has encouraged considerable discussion and informed decision-making regarding optimal care provision to this vulnerable population.