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Govt develops treatment centres for sickle cell diseases


The Ministry of Health in collaboration with the Sickle Cell Foundation of Ghana is working with Novartis, a global medicines company to develop treatment centres for sickle cell diseases in all regional capitals.

The collaboration will expand the newborn screening programmes to the centre for the disease and expand the generic counsellor training and certification programme.

The partnership will also make affordable hydroxyurea, a medicine that reduces the number of sickle cell pain attacks, across the centres.

Professor Kwaku Ohene-Frempong, the President of Sickle Cell Foundation (SCFG) of Ghana, said this in Accra at a lecture to mark World Sickle Day.

He said there was treatment for sickle cell diseases, adding that newborn screening for early diagnosis followed by twice daily penicillin under comprehensive care, saves lives of young children with the disease.

“With modern treatment, many children with sickle cell diseases can survive early childhood and grow to become independent adults,” he added.

Prof. Ohene-Frempong mentioned that common complications of the disease include frequent attacks of sickle cell pain, acute severe anaemia, malaria, acute lung damage, stroke in young children and chronic organs damage.

The disease is a major public health problem in the country and the sub-Saharan Africa.

He said over 15,000 babies are born with the disease every year in Ghana, where 50 to 90 per cent of them die before age five years and most of them never diagnosed and never treated for the disease.

In Africa, over 35,000 babies are born with the disease each year.

Prof Ohene-Frempong said the disease was inherited and usually passed on to children by parents who were ‘AS’ or ‘AC’ healthy carriers of genes (beta-S or beta-C) that when inherited from each parent cause ‘SCD-SS’ or ‘SCD-SC’.

About 23 per cent of healthy Ghanaian adults carry the beta-S or beta-C gene that can lead to ‘SCD’ when passed on to children. They need special blood tests to show them their Haemoglobin type.

Dr Patrice Natchaba, Head of Global Heath and Corporate Responsibilities at Novartis, explained that the partnership was to ensure that no child or family suffering from sickle cell disease was left behind.

He encouraged families to have their children tested for the sickle cell gene as an early diagnosis was the surest way to reduce the disease burden.

Hydroxyurea, according to him, makes the red blood cells healthier when taken on daily basis.

Dr Natchaba said Nortavis was committed to its part of the partnership and will by September this year bring in another 40,000doses of the medicine.

Prof Solomon Ofori-Acquah, Chair, Scientific Advisory Committee, SCFG called for concerted effort to help capitalize on transformation in the challenges of sickle cell disease.

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