An Extra Benefit for Sickle Cell Rx

Hydroxyurea may protect kidney function in sickle cell disease patients

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Jennifer Gershman, PharmD, CPh

(RxWiki News) A drug commonly used to treat sickle cell disease (SCD) may wind up helping patients in more ways than one.

A new study from France found that hydroxyurea (brand names Droxia, Hydrea) may also protect kidney function in patients with SCD.

SCD is an inherited blood disorder that affects the body's red blood cells. Patients with SCD have red blood cells that contain an abnormal type of hemoglobin (the substance that helps red blood cells carry oxygen through the body). As a result, the red blood cells can become crescent-shaped and have trouble passing through small blood vessels. Over time, less blood can reach parts of the body and tissue can become damaged.

SCD can also affect the function of the kidneys. The earliest sign of kidney damage in affected patients is albuminuria (the presence of the protein albumin in the urine).

Hydroxyurea, which works by making the red blood cells more flexible, is one of the cornerstones of SCD treatment. But its potential effects on kidney function remain unclear.

To investigate, a team of researchers led by Pablo Bartolucci, MD, PhD, and Vincent Audard, MD, PhD, both of the Université Paris-Est Créteil in Paris, looked at 58 adults with SCD who were starting hydroxyurea therapy.

After six months of treatment, these researchers found that kidney function (as measured by the concentration of albumin and creatine in the urine) improved significantly in these patients.

"The findings offer further evidence ... of a potential renal benefit of [hydroxyurea], and should strengthen arguments favoring its use in sickle cell disease for other indications and encouraging patient adherence to this drug,” Dr. Bartolucci said in a press release.

This study was published Nov. 19 in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology.

No funding sources or conflicts of interest were disclosed.

Review Date: 
November 20, 2015
Last Updated:
November 24, 2015