Hydroxyurea has been shown to positively modify sickle cell disease pathogenesis, but its use is low among Nigerian sickle cell anaemia (SCA) patients because of effectiveness and safety concerns.
We conducted a quasi-experimental study to evaluate the effectiveness and safety of hydroxyurea in 54 SCA children aged 4–17 years. Clinical and haematological parameters were compared at baseline and 12 months after hydroxyurea therapy. The participants were monitored for adverse events. The parameters were compared using relative risk and Wilcoxon Signed-Rank Test.
The number of subjects who had more than two episodes of painful crises reduced from 27 (50%) to 2 (2.7%) (p < 0.001), while those who had acute chest syndrome reduced from 6 (11.1%) to 0 (0.0%; p < 0.001). The risk of being transfused more than once was 0.11 times the risk in the 12 months period preceding therapy (95% CI = 0.02–0.85; p = 0.016). Similarly, the risk of hospital stay >7 days was 0.08 times the risk at the baseline (95% CI = 0.02–0.24; p < 0.0001). The median haematocrit and percentage foetal haemoglobin increased from 26 to 28% and 7.8 to 14%, respectively (p < 0.0001). A dose-dependent but reversible leucopenia was observed among six children (11.1%), otherwise, hydroxyurea was safe in the study population.
Hydroxyurea is effective and safe in SCA children in Jos, Nigeria. The findings could strengthen educational programme aimed at improving the utilization of hydroxyurea among SCA children.