New breakthrough drug to treat Sickle Cell AnemiaBy Dr. Veita Bland / December 16, 2023
As the holidays are upon us, it is indeed wonderful to report some truly good news about new medical treatments. This is a rare event. Many of you have friends, relatives or know of people who suffer from Sickle Cell Anemia. Today there is a new effective treatment to abate the symptoms of the disease.
Sickle Cell Anemia is an inherited disease that affects the hemoglobin in red blood cells and its ability to carry oxygen. Under certain circumstances in a patient with sickle cell anemia, the red blood cells change shape (become sickled or c-shaped), ridged, clog up the arteries causing tremendous pain and destruction.
Typically, these patients develop swelling in their hands and feet. They also have tremendous destruction of their internal organs which can result in the development of heart disease, strokes and excruciating pain. These problems can begin in a patient with sickle cell disease as early as 5-6 months of age. The lives of these patients are often cut short due to the internal destruction brought by the disease.
The FDA recently approved a remarkable medication for the treatment of Sickle Cell Disease. This drug in small trials was able to reduce the incidence of painful sickle cell events in 98 percent of adolescent research participants. The results were durable, lasting more than five years. These participants were essentially given the ability to live normal lives; no longer having to endure frequent hospitalizations due to the pain and destruction brought on by this horrific disease process.
Even more, the patients’ internal organs can be spared the destruction due to sickled blood cells that once clogged the bloodstream.
This new medication is delivered via an infusion. Currently, there are two new therapies available to treat sickle cell. The latest therapy was recently approved a week ago on December 8th. Both therapies use a form of gene editing where the offending gene causing red blood cell sickling is eliminated. Remarkably, this infusion is given one time. Yes, this treatment is a one-and-done infusion that will change the lives of people around the world who suffer from Sickle Cell Anemia.
It is important to get patients with Sickle Cell Anemia treated as early as possible to prevent damage to their internal organs; damage which shortens their lives.
Remember, it is still vital for people who carry the Sickle Cell gene to receive genetic counseling.
For healthcare providers who treat patients with Sickle Cell Anemia, this medical breakthrough is a tremendous and momentous step in treatment and one day a cure. Gone are the days when sickle cell patients had to endure painful crises with little to prevent pain and suffering. Gone are the days when patients felt the need to resort to strong painkillers to control their pain. This breakthrough is what medicine is supposed to be.
Dr. Veita Bland is a board-certified Greensboro physician and hypertension specialist. Dr. Bland’s radio show, “It’s a Matter of Your Health,” can be heard live on Wednesdays, 5:30 p.m. on N.C. A&T State University’s WNAA, 90.1 FM. Listeners may call in and ask questions. The show is replayed on Sirius 142 at 5 p.m. on Wed. Email Dr. Bland at email@example.com.