The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have announced that children with sickle cell anaemia have been found to not receive the necessary, potentially life-altering treatment for their disease.
According to a recent CDC study, fewer than half children with the disease in the US get the necessary screening, and only about half or fewer get treatment with hydroxyurea that can help reduce complications, such as pain and anemia. CDC released the study and called for better screening and treatment.
“The pain and complications these children often experience can be excruciating and debilitating and can last for hours, days, or even weeks,” said CDC Acting Principal Deputy Director Debra Houry, M.D., M.P.H. “Preventive care and medicines, such as hydroxyurea, can help ease the pain and suffering these children go through, and may extend their lives.”
In a study of more than 3,300 children with sickle cell anaemia who were enrolled in Medicaid in 2019, researchers found the following startling results:
- 47% of children aged 2–9 years and 38% of children aged 10–16 years received transcranial Doppler ultrasound to assess their risk for stroke.
- Only 2 in every 5 children aged 2–9 years and nearly half of children/teens aged 10–16 years with sickle cell anaemia are taking the medication hydroxyurea.
- Both the stroke screening and hydroxyurea use were highest among children with high levels of health care use, as well as those with evidence of prior complications from their disease.
“Sickle cell anaemia can shorten a person’s life expectancy by more than 20 years and can lead to complications affecting all parts of the body,” Dr. Karen Remley, M.P.H., Director of the CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, said. “These complications are preventable—not inevitable.”
The CDC also made a series of recommendations that could help remove barriers for sickle cell disease (SCD) patients to accessing life-saving care.