Government absorbs sickle cell treatment

BY: Chris Nunoo
Flashback: Vice-President Bawumia (2nd left) with other officials at the launch of the historic Ghana-Novartis partnership in Switzerland in 2019
Flashback: Vice-President Bawumia (2nd left) with other officials at the launch of the historic Ghana-Novartis partnership in Switzerland in 2019

The Vice-President, Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, has announced that the government will now absorb the cost of hydroxyurea, a modifying therapy for sickle cell patients, by placing the treatment under the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS).

Dr Bawumia made this known in a Facebook post yesterday after the world marked the Sickle Cell Awareness Day last Saturday.

In the run up to the 2020 general election, President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo made a promise to place the therapy under the NHIS.

The step taken, as announced by Dr Bawumia, appeared to confirm the fulfilment of that promise.

Facebook post

"As the world marked Sickle Cell Awareness Day on June 19, 2021, I am pleased to announce that at a meeting I chaired on June 8, 2021 with stakeholders, including the President of the Sickle Cell Foundation, Professor Ohene Frimpong; the Minister of Health, Mr Kweku Agyeman Manu; the NHIS and NOVARTIS, it was agreed that hydroxyurea, a modifying therapy for sickle cell, will now be provided under the NHIS to improve the physical health of people living with it," the Vice-President stated, adding that “this is a promise that has been fulfilled by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo.”

The therapy

Hydroxyurea is a medicine for the treatment of sickle cell disease, and was approved in Ghana by the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) in 2018, making Ghana the first country in Africa to take a step to offer the global standard for people with sickle cell disease.

Presently, about 15,000 babies of the 950,000 born in Ghana every year are said to have sickle cell disease.

Sickle cell anaemia or disease is an inherited group of disorders, where red blood cells contort into a sickle shape.

The cells die early, leaving a shortage of healthy red blood cells, and this could block blood flow, causing pain usually referred to as crisis.

Some of the symptoms include severe pain, infections and fatigue.