UAMS opens statewide sickle cell treatment program

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Adult sickle cell patients across the state will have better access to treatment under a new clinic launched Tuesday by the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.

About 1,300 adults and children in Arkansas suffer from the hereditary disease, which causes painful episodes that often bring complications, such as bone infections, stroke and kidney disease.

Sickle cell patients living in medically underserved rural areas will particularly benefit from the new clinic, which is operating in partnership with UAMS’ distance health center so patients can have consultations via the Internet.

The program is led by Dr. Robin Devan, a palliative care physician at UAMS.

“Sickle cell is a chronic, high-maintenance disease, because as a blood disease it affects every organ in the body,” Devan said in a news release.

Patients with severe forms of the disease can live into their 40s, she said. The disease used to kill patients at an early age. With sickle cell patients living longer, more is needed to provide for their care.

“People in their 20s and 30s may present with kidney failure, liver failure, strokes, retinopathy, and other life-threatening conditions,” Devan said.

In 2011, a bill by state Rep. Reginald Murdock, D-Marianna, provided $400,000 to start the clinic. It now draws funding from the Legislature and the state Medicaid program.

The program has nurses available around the clock to assist patients who call 855-742-2355. It also features a transition clinic, which helps patients make the transition from child to adult care. A patient registry will track adult patients who give consent so the clinic can monitor morbidity and mortality trends.

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