NHS treats first sickle cell anemia patient with new drug

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One of the first patients with sickle cell disease has received a life-changing drug called crizanlizumab, the first new treatment for the disease in over 20 years.

Sickle cell disease refers to a group of inherited health conditions that affect the red blood cells. People with the disease produce abnormally shaped red blood cells, which can cause problems because these cells don’t live as long as healthy blood cells and can clog blood vessels.

This NHS drug trade could result in up to 5,000 people with the condition gaining access to this new treatment option.

Treating the life-changing sickle cell disease

Crizanlizumab will reduce chronic pain and emergency room visits, and dramatically improve patients’ quality of life. This drug is given through a transfusion drug and works by attaching to a protein in the blood cells to prevent the restriction in blood and oxygen supply that leads to a sickle cell crisis.

Patients with sickle cell anemia suffer from monthly episodes, making it difficult for sufferers to continue with their job or other daily activities. The drug is expected to reduce the number of emergency room visits for sickle cell patients by two-fifths.

One of the first patients to have access to this breakthrough treatment option is Loury Mooruth from Walsall in the West Midlands. She commented, “Sickle cells have been a part of my whole life. People look at you and think you look good, but they don’t understand the pain and trauma along with the many emergency room visits.

“When I have a sickle cell crisis, it’s like someone has a knife and rips it through my joints — especially my hips and legs.

“Every time I thought about having this new drug, it brought tears to my eyes. I am so excited and over the moon because it is literally life changing for me and my family. I really want to encourage other eligible people with this condition to come forward and get this drug.”

New dedicated centers

Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust is one of 10 new specialist sickle cell disease treatment centers across the country. Patients can access the new treatment through their advisor at one of these clinics, regardless of where they live in the country.

dr Bola Owolabi, NHS Director of Health Inequalities, who also works as a GP in the Midlands, said: “It is fantastic that our first NHS patients have received this groundbreaking and historic new treatment for sickle cell disease – the first in over two decades.

“This revolutionary treatment will provide patients with a better quality of life, reduce trips to the emergency room by almost half and ultimately help save lives.

“The NHS agreement for this treatment has allowed us to offer patients the latest and best possible treatments at a price that taxpayers can afford.”

Crizanlizumab is the latest drug deal to be carried out by the NHS that will bring an improved quality of life to patients with the disease.

Sickle Cell Society Chairman Kye Gbangbola MBA said: “We are delighted that the first sickle cell patients are now gaining access to this life-changing new treatment. We encourage others who are eligible to do the same.

Sickle cell crises cause extreme pain and are a major disruption to daily life. We hope this new treatment will bring new life to many people with sickle cell disease.

“Sickle cell anemia is an underserved and underrecognized condition, so it’s great to see that after 20+ years, new treatments are available. We hope this will be the first of many new treatments to be made available to improve the lives of people with sickle cell disease.”

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