Sickle cell disease: ‘Revolutionary’ new treatment to cut A&E visits by 40 percent

A new sickle cell treatment – the first of its kind in the past 20 years – has been approved, giving patients fresh hope of managing the disease. In addition, it is expected to keep thousands of people out of hospital over the next three years, NHS England has said. There is currently no cure for sickle cell disease and it affect 15,000 people in the UK. It is more common in people with an African or Caribbean family background.

The “revolutionary” drug could slash the number of visits to A&E up to 40 percent, according to the BBC. 

The NHS has announced that crizanlizumab will be the first new treatment to become available for patients with the disease.

It will be delivered by a transfusion drip and works by binding to a protein in the blood cells to prevent the restriction of blood and oxygen supply.

It is hoped this will help as many as 5,000 people over the next three years. People aged over 16 who experience multiple sickle cell crises annually will be eligible for the treatment.

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Sickle cell disease is the name for a group of inherited health conditions that affect the red blood cells. The most serious type is called sickle cell anaemia, according to the NHS.

“Sickle cell disease is a serious and life-long health condition, although treatment can help manage many of the symptoms,” it adds.

Sickle cell disease is caused by a gene that affects how red blood cells develop.

If both parents have the gene, there’s a one in four chance of each child they have being born with sickle cell disease, the health body adds.

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Last year, NHS England set up 10 new dedicated centres to treat sickle cell disease across the country and patients will be able to access the new treatment through their consultant at one of these clinics.

NHS chief executive Amanda Pritchard said: “This is a historic moment for people with sickle cell disease who will be given their first new treatment in over two decades.

“This revolutionary treatment will help to save lives, allow patients to have a better quality of life and reduce trips to A&E by almost half.

“The NHS has agreed a deal for this drug, so we are able to provide the latest and best possible treatments for patients at a price that is affordable for taxpayers.”

Painful episodes, called sickle cell crises, can be very severe and last up to a week.

Chair of the Sickle Cell Society, Kye Gbangbola, said: “A new treatment brings new hope for people living with sickle cell disorder [SCD], the world’s most common genetic blood condition.

“SCD is a ‘medical emergency’; it causes excruciating pain, this new treatment will reduce the number of agonising pain episodes we have to endure.

“The hope is improved quality of life for many living with the condition and their families.”

The NHS says the main symptoms of sickle cell disease are these painful episodes, as well as an increased risk of serious infections, and anaemia which can cause tiredness.

“Some people also experience other problems, such as delayed growth, strokes and lung problems,” it adds.

Toks Odesanmi, a sickle cell patient at Cambridge University Hospitals Trust, said: “Sickle Cell Disease has defined me, defined my body and made a big dent to my dreams.

“No matter how hard I fight it continues to defeat me. A new treatment brings hope and might make dreaming possible again.”

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