The reasons for inadequate production of erythropoietin (EPO) in patients with ESRD are poorly understood. A better understanding of EPO regulation, namely oxygen-dependent hydroxylation of the hypoxia-inducible transcription factor (HIF), may enable targeted pharmacological intervention. Here, we tested the ability of fibrotic kidneys and extrarenal tissues to produce EPO. In this phase 1 study, we used an orally active prolyl-hydroxylase inhibitor, FG-2216, to stabilize HIF independent of oxygen availability in 12 hemodialysis (HD) patients, six of whom were anephric, and in six healthy volunteers. FG-2216 increased plasma EPO levels 30.8-fold in HD patients with kidneys, 14.5-fold in anephric HD patients, and 12.7-fold in healthy volunteers. These data demonstrate that pharmacologic manipulation of the HIF system can stimulate endogenous EPO production. Furthermore, the data indicate that deranged oxygen sensing--not a loss of EPO production capacity--causes renal anemia.