Life Changing Drug To Be Released By NHS For People With Sickle Cell Disease

Jesse Williams

By Jesse Williams

Jesse Williams

5 Oct 2021

Thousands of people are set to benefit after the NHS announced the approval of a revolutionary sickle cell drug treatment.

Known as Crizanlizumab, the new drug will be delivered via transfusion drip and works by binding to a protein in the blood cells to prevent the restriction of blood and oxygen supply.

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 admission.

Sickle cell disease is a blood disorder characterised by red blood cells that become sickle-shaped, leading to clumping and blockages in the small blood vessels. These blockages can cause a loss of blood flow and severe pain in episodes known as vaso-occlusive crises (VOCs), or sickle cell crises

Remarkably it is the first treatment for the disease in 20 years, and is projected to help as many as 5,000 people over the the next three years.

“This is a historic moment for people with sickle cell disease who will be given their first new treatment in over two decades,” said Amanda Pritchard, chief executive of NHS England. “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.”

Over 16s who suffer from multiple sickle cell crises every year will be eligible for the treatment. 

It will initially only be made available to around 300 patients but will be extended to 450 in future years after the decision by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice), which recommended the drug be available on the NHS.

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,”

“The hope is improved quality of life for many living with the condition and their families”.