(O.P.S.) Stephanie Justavino-Quintana is a young 14-year-old girl who enjoys shopping, reading and hanging out with her friends. However, Stephanie suffers from sickle-cell anemia, a very severe condition that requires her to go to the hospital every couple of months for blood transfusions.
Due to these frequent transfusions, Stephanie suffers from iron overload, a potentially life-threatening condition. Iron starts to build up in the body after as few as 10 transfusions because there is no natural way for the body to remove excess iron.
People who receive regular blood transfusions for diseases such as thalassemia, sickle cell disease, myelodysplastic syndromes, and other rare anemias are most at risk of developing iron overload. This condition, if left undiagnosed or untreated, can cause life-threatening damage to key organs and premature death. Iron chelation therapy, the removal of excess iron, is the only treatment for iron overload.
Stephanie has been receiving iron chelation therapy since she was a little girl. Her past treatment consisted of using a needle and pump six days a week for ten hours a day. ?My old therapy was difficult and very inconvenient; I had to strap a pump to different parts of my body almost every night, causing painful skin rashes and swelling?, said Stephanie.
A new breakthrough treatment has been approved by Health Canada for children and adults who suffer from chronic iron overload due to regular blood transfusions. Exjade is an oral treatment that removes excess iron with a single daily dose. Now patients can simply drop the dissolvable tablet into a glass of water or orange juice and drink it once a day.
?Because of its ease of use, Exjade has the potential to dramatically improve a patient?s adherence to treatment for transfusional iron overload,? said Dr. Denis Soulières, hematologist-medical and oncologist at the Notre-Dame Hospital (CHUM) in Montreal, Quebec.
The approval of Exjade will have a dramatic impact on the quality of life for people with iron overload.
?I always had to come home early from playing with my friends because I had to start my treatment right after dinner. I could never lead a normal life like the other girls my age,? said Stephanie. ?Now that I have started taking Exjade, my life has changed dramatically. I no longer have to deal with needles and pumps; all I have to do is put my medicine in a glass of juice and drink it in the morning. Now I can go watch movies at night with my friends and my family and we are even planning our first real vacation!?