What is Hydroxyurea?
Hydroxyurea is a drug (capsule) that was originally used to treat some forms of blood cancer (Leukemia) and blood disorders that can later turn into Leukemia. It has been used for over 15 years to treat sickle cell disease.
Hydroxyurea works in a few different ways, but the main way is to increase your body’s production of Fetal (baby) Hemoglobin.
We know that this then protects you against sickle cell disease. It is a safe drug and there is no evidence to suggest increases the risk of cancer in patients with sickle cell disease. Like all drugs, it does have some side effects, and you need regular blood test monitoring. Also, unlike painkillers which you take when required, Hydroxyurea must be taken every day to be effective.
Hydroxyurea is the only drug therapy available for sickle cell disease and has been shown to prolong survival, reduce pain episodes and some of the complications. Unless you have been told by a specialist that you have very mild Sickle Cell Disease, you should consider going on the drug.
Why am I being offered this treatment?
You are most likely to be offered Hydroxyurea because you have lots of painful crisis or Acute Chest Syndrome. It may also be offered if there is concern about damage to any of your body organs from the sickle cell disease, or as an alternative to blood transfusion treatment.
Other available treatments for sickle cell disease
Many individuals with sickle cell disease may also be offered continuous blood transfusion or blood exchange. These therapies will also help to increase the level of the non-sickling blood in the system.