The NHS has announced the rollout of the first treatment for sickle cell disease in over 20 years, offering thousands of patients life-changing benefits.

The new drug, known as Crizanlizumab, will be delivered by a transfusion drip. It works by binding to a protein in the blood cells to prevent the restrictions of blood oxygen supply that leads to a ‘sickle cell crisis’.

Sickle cell crises can occur multiple times per year, causing excruciating pain for the patient which often requires hospital admission. In severe cases, patients will need treatment to prevent organ failure, which can be fatal.

Because these episodes can occur on a monthly basis, some patients struggle to continue with their jobs and everyday activities. However, in clinical trials, Crizanlizumab reduced the number of times patients needed to go to A&E by two fifths, allowing patients more control over their life. 

The treatment offers patients "a better quality of life"

Amanda Pritchard, NHS chief executive, said the new treatment represents a “historic moment” for people living with sickle cell disease, and will help thousands of patients to have a “better quality of life”.

She added: “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”.

Everyone who is aged 16 or over and suffers from multiple sickle cell crises per year will be eligible for the treatment.

Toks Odesanmi, a sickle cell patient at Cambridge University Hospitals Trust, said: “Sickle cell disease has defined me, defined my body and made a big dent to my dreams.

“No matter how hard I fight it continues to defeat me. A new treatment brings hope and might make dreaming possible again”.