Thousands of people suffering from Britain’s most common genetic disorder have been offered new hope after the health watchdog approved a ground-breaking new treatment.
Sickle Cell Disease affects around 15,000 people in Britain who struggle to make enough red blood cells to carry oxygen around the body.
Current treatments involve lengthy manual transfusions which can take more than 24 hours every month. But a new device allows the red blood cells to be replaced in as little as three hours, and patients need only visit a clinic for the therapy six times a year.
The Spectra Optia Apheresis System was today cleared by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) who say it will save the NHS nearly £13 million a year
Professor Carole Longson MBE, Director of the Nice Centre for Health Technology Evaluation, said: “Sickle cell can be a painful, debilitating condition, potentially leading to major organ damage.
“Treatments are very limited, so this new guidance recommends a novel option which is very good news for patients as it makes the red blood cell exchange process faster and less frequent. The device could save the NHS in England an estimated £13 million each year – around £18,000 per patient – with the size of the saving depending on the patient’s condition and the equipment already owned by the NHS.”
In sickle cell disease, blood cells are a crescent – or sickle – shape instead of the normal round disc shape, affecting the cell’s ability to carry oxygen and move around the body.
Symptoms may include intense pain and severe anaemia, and the condition can cause damage to major organs and infections, and life-threatening complications. There is no cure for sickle cell disease but patients can be supported to manage the condition.
Curently blood transfusion therapies increase the amount of iron in a person’s body which can lead to serious problems such as liver disease or heart failure. Iron limiting therapy is required to reduce the amount of iron in the body, but this treatment can make some patients feel unwell and is very expensive for the NHS.
John James, Chief Executive of the Sickle Cell Society, said: “The Sickle Cell Society welcomes the NICE guidance on Spectra Optia.
“The Society has worked hard to improve access to this technology, and participated in the process every step of the way with NICE to help produce the guidance.
“Many people living with sickle cell would benefit from automated red cell exchange and guidance will enable more and more patients to access this treatment. We anticipate that this guidance will help more hospitals adopt the technology, saving patients from costly and often exhausting travel.”