New hope for sickle cell disease as first drug in 20 years approved

·2-min read

Watch: Thousands to benefit from new life-changing drug treatment

A “revolutionary” life-changing drug treatment for sickle cell disease is to be released to thousands of people in England, the NHS has announced.

Sickle cell disease – which is particularly common in people with an African or Caribbean background – is a serious and lifelong health condition causing severe pain and organ failure often requiring hospital admissions.

The new drug, known as crizanlizumab, 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 the first treatment for the disease in the past 20 years, and will help as many as 5,000 people over the next three years.

The drug will also reduce the number of times a sickle cell patient needs to go to A&E by two fifths, the NHS said.

People aged over 16 who suffer from multiple sickle cell crises every year will be eligible for the treatment.

NHS chief executive Amanda Pritchard welcomed the news (Yui Mok/PA) (PA Archive)
NHS chief executive Amanda Pritchard welcomed the news (Yui Mok/PA) (PA Archive)

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.”

Sickle Cell Society chair Kye Gbangbola MBA said: “A new treatment brings new hope for people living with sickle cell disorder, 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.”

Watch: Baby first NHS patient to get world's most expensive drug

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