NHS treats first sickle cell disease patients with new drug

NHS treats first sickle cell disease patients with new drug
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One of the first sickle cell disease patients 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 unusually shaped red blood cells that can cause problems because these cells do not live as long as healthy blood cells and can block blood vessels.

This NHS drug deal could lead to as many as 5,000 people with this disease having access to this new treatment option.

Life-changing sickle cell disease treatment

Crizanlizumab will reduce chronic pain, trips to A&E and will dramatically improve patients’ quality of life. This drug is delivered by a transfusion drug and works by binding to a protein in the blood cells to prevent the restriction of blood and oxygen supply that leads to sickle cell disease crisis.

Patients with sickle cell disease suffer from monthly episodes, which consequently makes it difficult for people to continue in their jobs or other everyday activities. It is expected that the drug will reduce the number of times a sickle cell disease patient need to go to A&E by two-fifths.

One of the first patients to access this groundbreaking treatment option is Loury Mooruth from Walsall in the West Midlands. She commented: “Sickle cell has been part of my entire life. People look at you and think you look fine, but they don’t understand the pain and the trauma along with the many trips to A&E.

“When I have a sickle cell crisis, it’s like someone has a knife and they are ripping it through my joints – particularly my hips and legs.

“Whenever 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 disease to come forward and get this drug”.

New dedicated centres

Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust is one of 10 new dedicated centres to treat sickle cell disease across the country. Patients will be able to access the new treatment through their consultant 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’s fantastic that our first NHS patients have been given this groundbreaking and historic new treatment for sickle cell disease – the first in over two decades.

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

“Thanks to the NHS’ deal for this treatment, we have been able to provide the latest and best possible treatments for patients at a price that is affordable for taxpayers”.

Crizanlizumab is the latest drug deal carried out by the NHS and will see patients with the disease enjoy an improved quality of life.

Chair of the Sickle Cell Society, Kye Gbangbola MBA, said: “We are delighted to see the first sickle cell patients are now getting access to this life-changing new treatment. We encourage others that are eligible to do similar.

Sickle cell crises cause extreme pain and are a huge disruption to daily life. We hope that this new treatment will bring a new lease of life to many living with sickle cell.

“Sickle cell is an underserved and under-recognised condition, so it is great to see new treatments being made available after over 20 years. We hope that this will be the first of many new treatments being made available to improve the lives of those living with sickle cell”.


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