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Imatinib’s Impact on Reducing Painful Episodes in Sickle Cell Disease

Currently, hydroxyurea (HU) is the only FDA-approved drug highly recommended for treating sickle cell anemia. However, its efficiency varies among patients with sickle cell disease for unknown reasons. Given the high prevalence of SCD and some patients’ resistance to HU, there is an urgent need to identify alternative agents to prevent complications such as severe life-limiting pain and resultant end-organ damage.

This Iranian study focused on patients with SCD resistant to hydroxyurea and folic acid treatment, who experienced at least four painful crises per year requiring hospitalization. The study aimed to evaluate the effects of imatinib on painful crises and hematological features. The findings showed that imatinib consumption significantly reduced chronic pain without any significant changes in hematological variables. Furthermore, there was a considerable reduction in hospitalized patients with sickle cell disease treated with imatinib.

Chronic pain, opioid use, and analgesic consumption decreased in these patients without significantly affecting hematological parameters. Imatinib use resulted in mild to moderate reversible side effects, which could be managed by reducing or discontinuing administration. Short-term toxicities of imatinib included superficial edema, muscle cramps, nausea, musculoskeletal pain, diarrhea, rash, fatigue, headache, abdominal pain, and joint pain in over 10% of patients.

Nonetheless, further research with larger sample sizes and varied therapeutic procedures is highly recommended.

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