Vanderbilt University Medical Center is part of a six-year, $4.4 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to improve the use of prescribed medication by sickle cell patients. Funded by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (Grant No. 1U01HL133996-01), the new Sickle Cell Disease Implementation Program includes researchers from St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, the University of Memphis, Methodist University Hospital, Baptist Memorial Hospital and Vanderbilt University.
The team will jointly develop, assess and integrate mobile health applications to manage hydroxyurea treatments among patients with sickle cell disease and identify barriers to medical care and any constraints on proper use of the medication.
In addition, the team will make the findings of the study available nationwide to encourage best practice and wider use of hydroxyurea in the national sickle cell community.
The team from Vanderbilt, led by Dr. William Cooper, Cornelius Vanderbilt Professor of Pediatrics and Health Policy, will use administrative health care insurance data from Medicare, TennCare and a commercial payer to measure the use and impact of hydroxyurea for children and adults in the state.
Using this insurance data, the Vanderbilt team will identify Memphis-area patients with sickle cell disease and will then determine who among them has prescriptions for hydroxyurea.
The team will aim to identify potential focus areas for the other projects within the overall program, which is designed to intervene and improve prescribing the drug.
“We know that hydroxyurea is an important part of the care for sickle cell disease. Unfortunately, not every person who should be taking the drug takes it regularly,” Dr. Cooper said.
“This work will allow us to identify groups who may be helped by the intervention work that our collaborators here at Vanderbilt and St. Jude are planning.”
Hydroxyurea can greatly reduce some of the complications of sickle cell disease, but some studies have shown that only 15-35 percent of sickle cell patients adequately follow their prescribed medication schedules.
In the United States, more than 100,000 people are affected by sickle cell disease, mostly African-Americans and many from disadvantaged backgrounds. In the Mid-South region alone, sickle cell disease affects approximately 2,000 individuals. If not treated effectively, sickle cell disease can lead to organ failure and early death.