New drug available for sickle cell patients in Baton Rouge

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BATON ROUGE, La. (LOCAL 33) (FOX 44) – Imagine a shooting pain going through your body, one so bad you can’t move. That’s Randy William’s reality every couple of months since his 8th birthday.

“It’s like somebody just grabbing and twisting you,” Williams says.

Williams has a blood disease called sickle cell, which means his red blood cells don’t always form correctly, they’re sticky and they sickle-like this one here. A malfunction like this can cause a cascade of issues from severe, shooting pain to organ damage. It’s landed Williams in the hospital about every four months each year.

Sickle cell is as hard to treat as it is to live with. The drugs patients take today are the same ones they’d have taken in the ’90s and the ’80s. That roadblock had the Our Lady of the Lake sickle cell clinic looking for better ways to treat their patients for as long as the program existed. Bridgette Pierre, a family nurse practitioner, says it’s hard to treat this disease.

“We’ve only had one medication for decades and we’ve been counting on that to be the fix all and it’s not for every patient,” Pierre says.

But now, that’s changed. Our lady of the lake is giving patients like Williams Oxbryta a new drug that makes sickled cells less sticky and reduces the likelihood of pain crises. Pierre, says it’s a step forward but there’s still room for improvement.

“All though it’s the most chronic genetic disorder this only a third of four drugs available.”

But despite the lack of other care options for these patients. The sickle cell clinic is hoping this drug might bring back hope to patients who feared there was none.

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