Experts Recommend Best Treatments for Sickle Cell Disease

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FILE – A sickle cell patient given an injection for pain relief.
A panel of
experts is out with new guidelines for treating sickle cell disease. But
not all the recommendations will be affordable for everyone.

Sickle cell disease – or sickle-cell anemia, as it’s sometimes called
– is a genetic condition affecting millions around the world. It’s most
common in tropical areas including sub-Saharan Africa, Saudi Arabia,
and Central and South America. It’s also found in countries like the
United States among migrants from those areas or their descendants.

The name comes from misshapen and sticky red blood cells which can
cause severe pain when they block small blood vessels instead of flowing

The new guidelines strongly recommend regular transfusions and a
medicine called hydroxyurea. Barbara P. Yawn, MD, co-chair of the expert
panel that developed the guidelines,
says these treatments can really improve patients’ lives, “and they are
just grossly underutilized. There are not nearly as many people using
these therapies as there are people who are candidates for these

Routine transfusions can be out of reach, especially in poor
countries. Hydroxyurea, on the other hand, is a relatively inexpensive,
generic pill.

Even more appropriate may be the recommendations to prevent
pneumococcal infections, which can be fatal in young children with
sickle cell disease. The guidelines recommend vaccination and a daily
dose of penicillin for youngsters under age five.

“So that’s something that we would like to do. Is that feasible in a
developing country? It should be, because penicillin is a generic drug.
It is very inexpensive,” said Dr. Yawn in a telephone interview.

The guidelines also recommend using strong medicines like morphine to treat the acute pain of a sickle cell crisis.

The sickle cell treatment guidelines are meant for health care
professionals, but Barbara Yawn says they’re also valuable for patients
and their families to be aware of, to point their doctors to the best
practices in treating the disease.

The expert panel that issued the sickle cell disease guidelines was
organized by the U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, and
their report was published in the journal of the American Medical Association, JAMA.

Credit: AP

Kofi Oppong Kyekyeku

I am a Ghanaian Broadcast Journalist/Writer who has an interest in General News, Sports, Entertainment, Health, Lifestyle and many more.

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