The medical care of renal anaemia has received much attention over the past decade, as nephrologists have recognized the increased therapeutic value of erythropoiesis-stimulating agents. The European Best Practice Guidelines and the US National Kidney Foundation's Kidney Disease Outcome Quality Initiative Guidelines have provided evidence-based advice on the optimal treatment of renal anaemia, and have recommended a target haemoglobin (Hb) level of 11 g/dl or 11-12 g/dl. Achieving this target Hb level has been shown to improve quality of life and reduce the rate of hospitalization; there is also good evidence to suggest that achieving adequate Hb levels reduces morbidity and mortality in patients with end-stage renal disease. In recent years, a number of factors have been identified that may counteract the positive action of epoetin therapy. These treatment-influencing factors include inadequate haemodialysis, absolute and functional iron deficiency, anticoagulant use, inflammation and infection. Each factor on its own may result in a substantial decrease in Hb levels, or an increase in epoetin requirements of up to 100%. Therefore, optimal and cost-effective treatment can only be achieved by adequately managing all of the factors that potentially can influence anaemia in patients with chronic kidney disease. Large-scale, cross-sectional surveys, such as the European Survey on Anaemia Management and the Dialysis Outcomes and Practice Patterns Study, have shown that there is still room for improving the efficacy and efficiency of anaemia therapy. The Optimal Treatment of Renal Anaemia (OPTA) initiative aims to help both physicians and nurses improve renal anaemia management by "translating" the standards set in published guidelines into practical clinical advice.