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Adult Sickle Cell Drug May Benefit Kids, Too
Date:12/12/2011

By Serena Gordon
HealthDay Reporter

SUNDAY, Dec. 11 (HealthDay News) -- A drug called hydroxyurea that's approved for use in adults with severe sickle cell anemia can also help young children with the disease, new research suggests.

Children with sickle cell anemia younger than 4 years old who took the medication had fewer emergency department visits for pain crises, hospital admissions, illnesses with fever and need for transfusions, the study found.

"Hydroxyurea may be an option for all children with sickle cell anemia. If you're the parent of a child with sickle cell anemia, talk with your child's doctor about whether it might be right for your child," said study lead author Dr. Zora Rogers, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas.

"We don't see a difference in toxicity; we don't see a big difference in growth," said Rogers, who's also clinical director of the bone marrow failure and general hematology program at Children's Medical Center in Dallas. "Hydroxyurea is not causing any obvious harm. We'll need to follow the children through adolescence, but right now the oldest is 9."

Rogers was scheduled to present the study's findings Sunday at the annual meeting of the American Society of Hematology in San Diego.

In sickle cell anemia, red blood cells become rigid and develop a crescent, or sickle, shape, often leading to pain, infection, organ damage, and even stroke. Hydroxyurea makes it less likely that red blood cells will bend abnormally, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health. People taking the drug must get monthly blood counts to verify they're on the most effective dose, Rogers said.

The new study followed up on one done with babies and toddlers with sickle cell anemia. In that earlier study, nearly 200 babies between 9 and 18 months old were randomly selected to receive treatment with either hydroxyurea or a placeb
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