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scientific articles

Hydroxyurea for children with sickle cell anemia in Sub-Saharan Africa

key information

source: The New England journal of medicine

year: 2018

authors: Tshilolo L, Tomlinson G, Williams TN, Santos B, Olupot-Olupot P, Lane A, Aygun B, Stuber SE, Latham TS, McGann PT, Ware RE

summary/abstract:

Background:
Hydroxyurea is an effective treatment for sickle cell anemia, but few studies have been conducted in sub-Saharan Africa, where the burden is greatest. Coexisting conditions such as malnutrition and malaria may affect the feasibility, safety, and benefits of hydroxyurea in low-resource settings.

Methods:
We enrolled children 1 to 10 years of age with sickle cell anemia in four sub-Saharan countries. Children received hydroxyurea at a dose of 15 to 20 mg per kilogram of body weight per day for 6 months, followed by dose escalation. The end points assessed feasibility (enrollment, retention, and adherence), safety (dose levels, toxic effects, and malaria), and benefits (laboratory variables, sickle cell-related events, transfusions, and survival).

Results:
A total of 635 children were fully enrolled; 606 children completed screening and began receiving hydroxyurea at a mean (±SD) dose of 17.5±1.8 mg per kilogram per day. The retention rate was 94.2% at 3 years of treatment. Hydroxyurea therapy led to significant increases in both the hemoglobin and fetal hemoglobin levels. Dose-limiting toxic events regarding laboratory variables occurred in 5.1% of the participants, which was below the protocol-specified threshold for safety. During the treatment phase, 20.6 dose-limiting toxic effects per 100 patient-years occurred, as compared with 20.7 events per 100 patient-years before treatment. As compared with the pretreatment period, the rates of clinical adverse events decreased with hydroxyurea use, including rates of vaso-occlusive pain (98.3 vs. 44.6 events per 100 patient-years; incidence rate ratio, 0.45; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.37 to 0.56), nonmalaria infection (142.5 vs. 90.0 events per 100 patient-years; incidence rate ratio, 0.62; 95% CI, 0.53 to 0.72), malaria (46.9 vs. 22.9 events per 100 patient-years; incidence rate ratio, 0.49; 95% CI, 0.37 to 0.66), transfusion (43.3 vs. 14.2 events per 100 patient-years; incidence rate ratio, 0.33; 95% CI, 0.23 to 0.47), and death (3.6 vs. 1.1 deaths per 100 patient-years; incidence rate ratio, 0.30; 95% CI, 0.10 to 0.88).

Conclusions:
Hydroxyurea treatment was feasible and safe in children with sickle cell anemia living in sub-Saharan Africa. Hydroxyurea use reduced the incidence of vaso-occlusive events, infections, malaria, transfusions, and death, which supports the need for wider access to treatment.

organization: Centre Hospitalier Monkole, Democratic Republic of Congo; University Health Network and Mt. Sinai Hospital, USA; University of Toronto, Canada; The Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI), Kenya; Imperial College London, UK; Hospital Pediátrico David Bernardino, Angola; Busitema University, Uganda; University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, USA; Cohen Children's Medical Center, USA; The Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell, USA

DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa1813598

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