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Thursday, June 30, 2016
Sickle Cell Anemia
Other Treatment Options
I am a 22 year old with sickle cell anemia. I am currently taking hydroxyurea for this condition. However, I am concerned about the long term side effects of this drug. What other types of treatments are available for me?
Unfortunately, there are no other treatment options at this time aside from chronic blood transfusions. The drug has been used for over 10 years in sickle cell patients and we have not seen an increased rate of cancer or other long term side effects. Obviously, we still don't know everything about hydroxyurea especially when taken for many years, but I believe the benefits far outweigh the risks for most people with sickle cell unless you have very mild disease. You could talk to your doctor about doing a 3-6 month holiday off hydroxyurea and see how you do, but I would not try the holiday it if you have had serious problems like acute chest syndrome or stroke in the past.
Anthony D Villella, MD
Formerly, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University