Words by Lucy Evans, Staff Writer
The first new treatment for sickle cell anaemia for 20 years has been accepted for use by the NHS.
Sickle cell anaemia (SCA) is an incurable disease, caused by a gene mutation, which causes red blood cells to misshape and look like sickles, thus impacting the transport of oxygen around the body. It is the most common genetic blood condition globally. It has the effect of providing protection to malaria, thus it is more common in people from areas where malaria is common.
NHS England has said this will ‘help thousands of people stay out of hospital over the next 3 years’.
Around 15,000 people in the UK suffer from SCA, mostly in black communities.
The drug, crizanlizumab, is injected into veins, either by itself or alongside blood transfusions. Clinical trials showed that on average people taking the medication suffered 1.6 sickle cell attacks annually, down from 3 normally.
Sickle cell attacks are caused by the blood cells blocking small blood vessels. This can lead to other health complications and can be extremely painful.
NICE, the board which recommends treatments in England and Wales, is only recommending its use for over 16s, and under special circumstances, rather than routinely. However, it will be covered by the NHS.
Sickle Cell Society, a charity for those with the disease, said this treatment offered new ‘hope’.