King’s patient is first to receive new sickle drug

Sickle cell patients across England have now begun receiving the first new treatment for the blood disorder in over 20 years

Josephine Jones

Earlier this month, a King’s patient became the first person in England to receive the new sickle cell drug, crizanlizumab, after it was approved for use across the NHS in November 2021. Previously, patients living with sickle cell disorder could only receive this treatment as part of a clinical trial.

In patients with sickle cell, red blood cells become distorted, blocking vessels and restricting oxygen supply across the body. The condition, which is inherited, can cause severe pain, with patients often requiring hospital treatment.

The new drug offers hope for thousands of patients with the condition who have not had access to new treatments in over 20 years. Crizanlizumab is a monoclonal antibody and binds to a protein on blood cells, preventing them from clumping.

A UK-wide clinical trial found that crizanlizumab - which is administered as a monthly infusion - reduces sickle cell pain significantly. Patients receiving the drug had to visit hospital far less frequently for pain relief. The clinical trials showed, on average, a 40% reduction in A&E visits.

King’s haematology nurse Josephine Jones delivered the first NHS-approved infusion at the Trust and said: “I’ve worked as a haematology nurse for over 13 years and seen first-hand the devastating effects of sickle cell disease.

“It was an honour to be one of the first nurses in England to administer the crizanlizumab infusion and share this momentous moment with our patient – who has endured repeated periods of pain for many years.”

The patient - a 30-year-old man with homozygous sickle cell disorder (HbSS) – previously had little success with the well-established tablet hydroxyurea and had also been dependent on regular blood transfusions. The patient did not experience any side effects from the new treatment and is hopeful crizanlizumab will make a positive change to his life.

Dr Arne De Kreuk, a consultant haematologist and sickle cell specialist at King’s, added: “We are delighted that we can finally offer a new treatment to our sickle cell patients. The disease can cause excruciating pain and disrupt a person’s daily life.

"Based on results from the trial we hope that crizanlizumab will allow more patients to have a better quality of life and reduce the frequency and severity of sickle cell pain.”