For the first time in two decades, a new therapy with life-saving benefits will be made available on the NHS to treat patients with sickle cell disease.

This follows NICE‘s recommendation to use a new drug – Crizanlizumab, sold under the brand name Adakveo by Novartis – to treat the disease in people aged 16 or over.

The drug will be delivered by a transfusion drip. It works by binding to a protein in the blood cells to prevent the restriction of blood and oxygen supply that lead to a sickle cell crisis.

Announcing the new treatment on Tuesday (October 5), Amanda Pritchard, NHS chief executive, said the drug deal, struck by the NHS, would benefit around 5,000 people over the next three years.

It is the latest in a line of deals secured by the NHS, including a new cholesterol-busting jab and lung cancer drug, last month.

Pritchard said: “This revolutionary treatment will help to save lives, allow patients to have a better quality of life and reduce trips to A&E by almost half.

“The NHS has agreed a deal for this drug, so we are able to provide the latest and best possible treatments for patients at a price that is affordable for taxpayers”.

The deal will also allow the NICE to publish final guidance on Crizanlizumab after taking into consideration the data that will be collected as part of the agreement.

Health secretary Sajid Javid said: “It is fantastic news that this ground-breaking new treatment for sickle cell disease will soon be available in England where it will make a difference to thousands of people’s lives.

“The UK has proven itself to be a world leader in rolling out innovative, life-saving treatments to ensure every NHS patient gets access to the medicines they deserve.

“This is a historic day for those living with this condition”.

Sickle cell disease is a blood disorder characterised by red blood cells that become sickle-shaped, leading to clumping and blockages in the small blood vessels.

The hereditary condition of the disease is more prevalent among people from African or African-Caribbean origin.

Novartis oncology president, Susanne Schaffert, said: “We are pleased that this close partnership with NICE, NHS England and the sickle cell community will enable access to crizanlizumab for those in need of an alternative treatment to help manage their condition and demonstrates the commitment of UK life sciences to ensure access to innovation”.

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