Sickle cell disease is an inherited disorder of hemoglobin, resulting in abnormal red blood cells. These are rigid and may block blood vessels leading to acute painful crises and other complications. Recent research has focused on therapies to rehydrate the sickled cells by reducing the loss of water and ions from them. Little is known about the effectiveness and safety of such drugs. This is an updated version of a previously published review.
To assess the relative risks and benefits of drugs to rehydrate sickled red blood cells.
We searched the Cochrane Cystic Fibrosis and Genetic Disorders Group's Haemoglobinopathies Trials Register. We also searched online trials registries for any ongoing trials (01 July 2018).Last search of the Group's Haemoglobinopathies Trials Register: 08 October 2018.
Randomized or quasi-randomized controlled trials of drugs to rehydrate sickled red blood cells compared to placebo or an alternative treatment.
Both authors independently selected studies for inclusion, assessed study quality and extracted data.
Of the 51 studies identified, three met the inclusion criteria, including 524 people with sickle cell disease aged between 12 and 65 years of age. One study tested the effectiveness of zinc sulphate as compared to placebo and the remaining two assessed senicapoc versus placebo. No deaths were seen in any of the studies (low-quality evidence). The zinc sulphate study showed a significant reduction in painful crises (in a total of 145 participants) over one and a half years, mean difference -2.83 (95% confidence interval -3.51 to -2.15) (moderate-quality evidence). However, analysis was restricted due to limited statistical data. Changes to red blood cell parameters and blood counts were inconsistent (very low-quality evidence). No serious adverse events were noted in the study. The Phase II dose-finding study of senicapoc (a Gardos channel blocker) compared to placebo showed that the high dose senicapoc showed significant improvement in change in hemoglobin level, the number and proportion of dense red blood cells, red blood cell count and indices and hematocrit value (very low-quality evidence). The results with low-dose senicapoc were similar to the high-dose senicapoc group but of lesser magnitude. There was no difference in the frequency of painful crises between the three groups (low-quality evidence). A subsequent Phase III study of senicapoc was terminated early since there was no difference observed between the treatment and control groups in the primary end point of painful crises.