England launches new ‘life-saving’ drug for sickle cell patients
The National Health Service (NHS) of England has announced a new "life-saving" drug, Crizanlizumab, to help people with sickle cell disease (SCD). Crizanlizumab will be administered via transfusion drip and "works by binding to a protein in blood cells to prevent the restriction of blood and oxygen supply that leads to a sickle cell crisis," according to the NHS. Approximately 5,000 people in England will be treated with the drug over the next three years.
SCD is common in Africa, where up to 40% of the population can carry the mutated gene, though most never get sick, according to AFP.
Vaso-occlusive crises are episodes of debilitating pain caused by the disease. It may also result in infection, organ damage, acute chest syndrome, or stroke.
Nigeria is considered the epicentre of the disease in the world. Professor Olu Akinyanju, the chairman of the Sickle Cell Foundation, said in a paper published on the foundation’s website that “in sheer numbers, Nigeria has the largest burden of sickle cell disorder (SCD) in the whole world.”
Nigeria’s large population has ensured that over 40 million Nigerians are healthy carriers of the S gene,” Professor Akinyanju said. “This number of carriers far exceeds the total population of every other affected African country and indeed, of several of them put together.
Consequently, about 150,000 Nigerian children are born each year with sickle cell anaemia (HbSS), the prevailing type of sickle cell disorder (SCD) in this Region.” Crizanlizumab is expected to reduce the number of times a sickle cell patient needs to go to A&E (Accident and Emergency Unit of a hospital) by twarmpits,” says vet Isa Agit, standing on sun-hardened and cracked mud that used to be part of a lake in eastern Turkey, with his hands firmly wrapped around a long-legged buzzard.
“That’s the last of the flamingos over there,” he adds, pointing to what is left of the lake in the village of Enginsu – a patch of water just visible in the distance.