Trying a Different Medication to Address Iron Overload

Mary Shaniqua avatar

by Mary Shaniqua |

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Iron overload is a common side effect for sickle cell patients participating in blood transfusion programs. When this happens, the body’s excessive iron levels can cause an accumulation of iron in the body’s organs, which can lead to serious organ damage.

I was diagnosed with iron overload about three years ago, and since then have tried different treatments to address it. Unfortunately, I’ve had little to no success in reducing my iron levels.

In the medication regimen I shared with readers a few months ago, I explained that I was injecting a pump six days a week to infuse Desferal (deferoxamine mesylate) into my body over 16 hours each day. It probably comes as no surprise that I hated this part of my medication regimen.

I am squeamish, so injecting myself daily for the past two years was both difficult and painful. I also found that subcutaneous needles caused swelling at injection sites that sometimes lasted up to a week.

Having to carry a pump around all day, every day, was cumbersome and affected my fashion choices. It may sound silly, but as a young woman, having my fashion choices affected by my medication regimen was a difficult pill for me to swallow. I couldn’t wear dresses, jumpsuits, or playsuits because of the pump. I mostly could wear only loose-fitting tops with bottoms that had a stretchy waistband.

While the initial plan was for me to be on Desferal pumps for 12 months, I ended up being on them for 24 months. During that time, I saw little to no improvement in my iron levels. This meant that I had been enduring all of the inconveniences I mentioned, without receiving a benefit from the medication. It was very disheartening — and annoying!

Recently, I agreed to try a different treatment for my iron overload, called Exjade (deferasirox). I had taken it a few years ago in a different form, but had to stop due to adverse effects to my liver functions.

Those on my medical team are hopeful that the new form of Exjade will reduce the likelihood of adverse effects on my body while successfully reducing iron levels. Weekly blood tests currently help to monitor my liver functions. If those remain stable during a trial period, then I will switch to this medication and be finished with Desferal pumps.

That is my desired outcome. I am three weeks into a six-week trial period, and all seems to be going well. My liver functions are stable, and I have been feeling more confident in myself because I don’t have to walk around with a visible pump attached to me.

I will keep you posted about how it goes!


Note: Sickle Cell Anemia News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Sickle Cell Anemia News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to sickle cell anemia.


Kenechukwu Onuorah avatar

Kenechukwu Onuorah

Goodluck hun


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