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patient education

Improving vaso-occlusive crisis (VOC) management for those living with sickle cell disease

key information

source: Pfizer Rare Disease


While sickle cell disease (SCD) was first discovered more than 100 years ago, there remains several and staggering unmet needs in patient care. This is especially true with regard to treating vaso-occlusive crises (VOCs), the common and debilitating pain crises that drive SCD patients to the emergency department (ED).

There are limited options for treating SCD, and the current practice is to focus on pain management, often with opioid medications. SCD patients may build a tolerance to these pain medications, and as result, require higher doses over time. Unfortunately, SCD patients have reported that ED staff often misunderstand the legitimacy of their pain, and see them as “drug-seekers,” a situation that has been exacerbated in recent years by the current opioid epidemic.

This stigma has contributed to people with SCD not receiving adequate and timely pain relief. These patients wait an average of 30 minutes longer in the ED for pain medication when compared to people with other extremely painful conditions, like kidney stones.


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