Leading Specialists Visit Dubai’s Thalassemia Centre
International specialists in blood disorders visited the Thalassemia Centre in Dubai recently to speak with staff and patients at the Gulf’s leading centre for treatment of the disease.
Dr Maria Capellini from Italy and Dr Ali Taher from Lebanon were shown around the premises at the Al Wasl Hospital in Dubai by the centre’s director Dr Khawla Belhoul.
The pioneering centre has been widely credited for helping to control thalassemia in the UAE and is accredited by the World Health Organisation and Thalassemia International Federation as one of the leading centre’s of its kind in the world.
Thalassemia, which is widely prevalent in the UAE and throughout the Middle East, affects one in 12 people in the Emirates. The genetic blood disorder affects the body’s ability to produce haemoglobin and necessitates regular blood transfusions and life-long care.
The centre, which was opened in 1989, has treated and helped thousands of patients, the majority of them children.
The centre’s international visitors were also shown the effects of a breakthrough drug recently approved in the UAE and now being used at the centre to treat potentially fatal iron overload caused by repeated blood transfusions.
Iron overload is a cumulative, potentially life-threatening, unavoidable consequence of chronic blood transfusions used to treat certain types of rare chronic blood disorders, including thalassemia and sickle cell disease, as well as other rare anemia and myelodysplastic syndromes.
If left undiagnosed or untreated, the excess iron in the body can lead to damage of the liver, heart, and endocrine glands. The body has no inherent mechanism to remove excess iron, so iron chelation is used as an effective treatment for transfusion-related iron overload.
The drug, Exjade, which is taken once daily as a drink, is a significant improvement over previous iron chelation treatments, which require frequent, subcutaneous infusion lasting eight to 12 hours per night for five to seven days per week as long as the patient continues to receive blood transfusions or has excess iron in the body.
Exjade has been approved for use across the UAE and is available by prescription only.
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