Thalassaemia patients drink to once-daily Exjade

The first once-daily oral iron chelator for the treatment of chronic iron overload has been approved for prescriptive use in the UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar.

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By  Joanne Bladd Published  October 25, 2006

The first once-daily oral iron chelator for the treatment of chronic iron overload has been approved for prescriptive use in the UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar. Exjade is the only iron chelator administered as a drink (the tablets are dispersed in a glass of orange juice, apple juice or water), compared to the current standard of care, which often requires a subcutaneous infusion lasting eight to 12 hours per night, for five to seven nights a week. The burdensome nature of the treatment, particularly for children, has meant many patients stop or avoided treatment, thus risking the toxic effects of iron overload. The approval of Exjade is expected to greatly enhance the acceptance of iron chelation therapy, and has been widely welcomed by regional physicians. Dr Ahmed Tarawah, a paediatric haematologist at at the Children and Maternity Hospital in Al Madinah, said: “The difference for a patient in taking orally one tablet a day compared to hours of current iron chelation is immense. There is a great deal of improvement in a patient’s quality of life when they take the drug as opposed to the traditional treatment.” Dr Ahmed Sulaiman, a paediatric haematologist at King Fahad Hospital in Al Hassa agreed, adding: “So far 50 of our patients have taken Exjade. All are very co-operative with the treatment – they have no reason to not continue with taking the tablet. “Previously many would give up due to the restrictions of their previous treatment and the constraints it placed on their lives.” Iron overload is a an unavoidable consequence of the frequent blood transfusions used to treat rare chronic blood disorders, including thalassaemia and sickle cell disease, other rare anaemias and myelodysplastic syndromes. Signs of iron overload may be detected after transfusion of about 20 units of blood. If left untreated, excess iron in the body is likely to lead to damage to the liver, heart and endocrine glands. The body has no inherent mechanism to remove excess iron, so iron chelation is an effective treatment for transfusion-related iron overload.

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