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Contact: Andrea Slesinski
American Society of Hematology

New studies reveal critical insights to improve care of patients with sickle cell disease

(ATLANTA, December 10, 2012) - Research unveiling key gaps in continuity of care for sickle cell patients transitioning from pediatric to adult care will be presented this week during the 54th Annual Meeting of the American Society of Hematology (ASH).

Sickle cell disease (SCD) is an inherited, chronic blood disorder affecting between 90,000 and 100,000 Americans. Instead of producing healthy red blood cells, individuals with the disease produce abnormal, sickle-shaped cells that cannot easily move through blood vessels and deliver adequate oxygen to the body's tissues and organs. Blocked blood flow as a result of an accumulation of these sickled cells can cause severe pain and organ damage and increase a patient's risk for infection.

While SCD was formerly considered a childhood disease because patients rarely lived beyond their teens, thanks to improvements in treatment, an increasing number of SCD patients are living well into adulthood. While effective treatments are extending life expectancy for these patients, doctors and patients face new challenges to help ensure that the growing adult population of patients with SCD can receive adequate care to manage their disease over the long term.

New research being presented at the 2012 ASH Annual Meeting examines a number of factors surrounding care for SCD patients; researchers conclude that SCD patients tend to rely more on emergency departments to manage acute events (e.g., infection, pain, and acute chest syndrome) related to their disease as they transition from childhood to adulthood. Data confirms that these patients are also hospitalized more frequently than the general population, resulting in significantly higher overall costs and burden on the health-care system. The studies identify opportunities to improve the health system, including improving continuity of patient care and education for patients. They also provide evidence to encourage the public health community to continue to develop and refine critical initiatives that will help these patients as they transition from pediatric to adult public and private health insurance coverage.

"While we have made many advances in the treatment of sickle cell disease, this research reveals the important challenge we as physicians continue to face in ensuring that the medical system supports timely access to needed preventive and disease management protocols for our patients," said ASH President-Elect Janis Abkowitz, MD of the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle. "For health-care providers, it is important to consider how we can address the needs of patients transitioning into adulthood and avoid unnecessary trips to the emergency department - steps that will improve the health-care system for everyone."

Highlights of the SCD-related studies presented during the 2012 ASH Annual Meeting include:

Age-Related Emergency Department Reliance and Healthcare Resource Utilization in Patients with Sickle Cell Disease [Abstract 475]
Presenting Author: Morey A. Blinder, MD
Oral Presentation: Monday, December 10, 10:30 AM; C211-C213, Level 2, Building C

Outpatient Visits, Hospitalizations and Emergency Department Visits Among Patients with Sickle Cell Disease on Medicaid: Trends in 14 USA States, 2006-2007 [Abstract 3181]
Presenting Author: Benjamin Ansa, MD
Poster Presentation: Sunday, December 9, 6:00 PM-8:00 PM; Hall B1-B2, Level 1, Building B

Acute Healthcare Utilization for Patients with Sickle Cell Disease within a Community-based Hospital System [Abstract 4246]
Presenting Author: Hung Tran, MD
Poster Presentation: Monday, December 10, 6:00 PM-8:00 PM; Hall B1-B2, Level 1, Building B


American Society of Hematology 54th Annual Meeting

The study authors and moderator will be available for interviews after the press conference or by telephone. Additional press briefings will take place throughout the meeting on new targeted treatment for chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) and hard-to-treat blood disorders, strategies to increase the efficacy and safety of treatments for clotting disorders, and advances in stem cell technology and transplant strategies. For the complete annual meeting program and abstracts, visit www.hematology.org/2012abstracts. Follow ASH (@ASH_hematology) on Twitter (use the hashtag #ASH12 when posting tweets about the meeting) and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/AmericanSocietyofHematology for the most up-to-date information about the 2012 ASH Annual Meeting.

The American Society of Hematology (ASH) (www.hematology.org) is the world's largest professional society of hematologists dedicated to furthering the understanding, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of disorders affecting the blood. For more than 50 years, the Society has led the development of hematology as a discipline by promoting research, patient care, education, training, and advocacy in hematology. The official journal of ASH is Blood (www.bloodjournal.org), the most cited peer-reviewed publication in the field, which is available weekly in print and online.

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