The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) in the UK approved a new treatment for sickle cell disease. The National Health Service (NHS) watchdog says the new treatment could save millions per year from medical costs.

Sickle cell disease is characterized by having red blood cells that are crescent or sickle-shaped, caused by the clumping together of hemoglobin. The sickle-shaped cells can block the blood vessels, reducing the flow of blood and hampering the delivery of adequate oxygen to the different parts of the body.

"Sickle cell can be a painful, debilitating condition, potentially leading to major organ damage," says Carole Longson from NICE.

With the grave impact of the disease, this new guidance recommendation from NICE may provide a novel choice for patients and clinicians to achieve better health outcomes.

Sickle Cell Treatment

There is no conventional cure for sickle cell disease. Treatments only involve alleviating clinical signs and symptoms and do not actually target the root of the problem.

The new strategy may spark hope for sickle cell treatment.

One option for sickle cell disease patients is to undergo blood transfusion to replace defective red blood cells.

The treatment recommended by NICE uses the Spectra Optia Apheresis System, which may pave the way for a faster and less frequent process of red blood cell exchange.

The said technology automatically replaces sickle-shaped cells with healthy ones and is said to benefit patients who need regular transfusion the most.

The Danger With Transfusion

Some blood transfusion procedures increase the iron levels of patients. This may result in serious health problems such as heart failure and liver disease.

To counter this, patients may need to undergo a separate therapy to decrease the level of iron in their body. In the process, patients usually suffer from illnesses and the NHS ends up spending more.

A good thing about Spectra Optia is that it is designed to be iron neutral and thus may manage patients who are already overloaded with iron.

Saving Costs

Patients are not the only ones to benefit from Spectra Optia. With the new treatment, the NHS can save up to £13 million ($18 million) per year, or £18,000 ($25,000) per patient.

To further determine the effects of Spectra Optia, Longson encourages specialists to cooperate in terms of enriching available data about the treatment. She says long-term data about the outcomes of treatment would be particularly helpful.

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