Drug Cuts Pain in Sickle Cell Infants

Hydroxyurea found to reduce hospital admission and transfusions in children with sickle cell anemia

(RxWiki News) A sickle cell anemia treatment may benefit infants as young as nine months old by reducing their level of pain from the disease. It also could reduce the need for blood transfusions and cut the rate of hospital admission.

During the BABY HUG clinical trial, hydroxyurea (Hydrea, Droxia) also was found to offer additional clinical benefits such as better management of acute chest syndrome events. The drug is not currently approved for treating children.

"Follow your doctor's order for treating sickle cell anemia."

Dr. Zora R. Rogers, a pediatrician with the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, found that the added benefits children received by taking the medication were not accompanied by a higher rate of complications or side effects.

Researchers enrolled 163 children between the ages of nine months and 18 months with sickle cell anemia who had participated in the BABY HUG Follow-Up Study to the randomized placebo-controlled trial. Children were randomly selected to take either hydroxyurea or a placebo. As part of the trial, clinical and laboratory data were collected every six months. The participants were followed for 36 months. Two patients in the group that did not take medication had a stroke.

Preliminary analysis including 417 patient years of follow up showed that children had a decrease in emergency visits for pain, with 29 hospital visits among 100 patient years reported for kids taking the medication as compared to 54 children who did not take the drug.

Children who took the drug also were less likely to require a blood transfusion, with 18 transfusions needed per 100 patient years as compared to 34 among the control group.

Investigators also found that children taking hydroxyurea were significantly less likely to be admitted to the hospital with fever, acute chest syndrome, or for any other cause. Other reported benefits included higher total and fetal hemoglobin concentrations and larger red cell size. No difference was found in hospitalization for painful events including dactylitis.

Researchers suggest additional research may be necessary to fully define benefits associated with the drug, particularly as children grow.

The research was presented Sunday at the American Society of Hematology's annual meeting in San Diego, Calif. It was also published in the  journal The Lancet.

Review Date: 
December 10, 2011