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New drug poised to radically change the treatment of severe anemias

(WASHINGTON, April 21, 2006) Those with severe chronic anemias need frequent blood transfusions to remain healthy, but such frequent transfusions can cause a potentially deadly buildup of iron in the body, leading to heart and liver failure. The traditional treatment to remove excess iron is so onerous that many patients choose to forgo it, putting their own lives at risk. The results of an international study on deferasirox, a new drug that may revolutionize the way chronic iron overload is treated, will be published in the May 1, 2006, issue of Blood, the official journal of the American Society of Hematology.

The current standard therapy to rid the body of excess iron is deferoxamine, administered for as long as the patient continues to receive blood transfusions, which, for many patients, can be for the rest of their lives. Although its effectiveness and safety are well-established, the necessity for the drug to be delivered by slow subcutaneous or intravenous infusion for eight to 12 hours a night over a period of five to seven days makes it an inconvenient and painful choice for patients. Unlike deferoxamine, deferasirox is available in a once-daily, drinkable format, providing a promising alternative.

"The ease and convenience of deferasirox means that more patients needing frequent blood transfusions, especially young children, will be able to be successfully treated and lead normal, healthy lives," said Maria Domenica Cappellini, MD, of the University of Milan, Italy, and lead study author.

To compare the efficacy and safety of the two drugs, a multicenter trial of both children (some as young as two years old) and adults diagnosed with chronic iron overload was conducted in a dozen countries worldwide. People with beta-thalassemia, an inherited blood disorder, were selected for this study because complications of chronic iron overload have been best studied in those with this disease. All participants continued receiving re
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Contact: Laura Stark
lstark@hematology.org
202-776-0544
American Society of Hematology
21-Apr-2006


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