Jonathan Sorof, MD, Head of Medical Affairs at Global Blood Therapeutics (GBT) talks about the way patients with sickle cell disease have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Sickle cell disease, as described by the NIH, is an inherited blood disorder. Early symptoms usually occur in childhood and include swelling, fatigue, and jaundice. As the disease progresses, there is an increased risk of infections, delayed growth, and periodic episodes of pain. Over time, organ damage can occur, creating problems in the spleen, brain, eyes, lungs, liver, heart, kidneys, penis, joints, bones, and/or skin. 

The primary way in which the current pandemic has affected sickle cell disease patients is by limiting treatment options, especially those in need of transfusions or emergency care. Last November, the FDA approved GBT’s voxelotor, an oral therapy which specifically inhibits sickle hemoglobin polymerization, the direct cause of sickle cell disease. As Dr. Sorof mentions, the availability of voxelotor is crucial since it can be administered at home. 

One positive effect of the pandemic that Dr. Sorof also mentioned, is the increased use of telehealth, which has allowed sickle cell disease patients to communicate with their doctors without exposing themselves or others to unnecessary danger. 

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