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Hydroxyurea Underutilized for Patients With Sickle Cell

Only 23 percent using the drug within a year of their last pain crisis

WEDNESDAY, April 29, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Less than one-quarter of sickle cell anemia (SCA) patients who should have been taking hydroxyurea within a year of their last pain crisis actually were taking the medication, according to research from a national database. These findings were published in a research letter in the April 28 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

For the study, Nicolas Stettler, M.D., and colleagues at the Lewin Group in Falls Church, Va., used a database with information on almost 27 million Americans' health insurance claims. The researchers identified 677 adults with SCA who fit the criteria for taking hydroxyurea.

But based on their records, only 23 percent were using the drug within a year of their last pain crisis. And that figure, Stettler told HealthDay, may actually be an underestimate of the problem, because it doesn't account for SCA patients on Medicaid or the uninsured.

"To address this gap, it may be necessary to enhance patient outreach and clinician training and develop health care quality measures aimed at increasing the use of hydroxyurea for all patients who would benefit," the authors write.

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