GBT Supports Sickle Cell Patients During COVID-19 Pandemic

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by Mary Chapman |

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Global Blood Therapeutics (GBT) is taking proactive measures to support public health efforts and sickle cell disease (SCD) patients during the global COVID-19 pandemic.

To help stem the spread of the coronavirus, the company is backing public health strategies, including social distancing. Specifically, GBT is temporarily prohibiting all field team in-person interactions, including visits to physicians, clinics, hospitals and payers.

The suspension is effective until April 7, at which time GBT will reassess the situation. In the meantime, the company continues to provide online education and is ramping up digital outreach to healthcare professionals and insurers.

Also, in keeping with local public health directives, non-essential employees at GBT headquarters in south San Francisco, are now working from home.

“As a company focused on serving the needs of the sickle cell disease community, we believe that we can help reduce the spread of COVID-19 transmission during this pandemic by limiting direct interactions and embracing virtual communications,” Ted W. Love, MD, GBT’s president and CEO, said in a press release.

“We are taking these steps in the interest of public health so that we can do our part to slow the trajectory of the illness. We appreciate and thank our nation’s healthcare professionals, who are on the front lines and are continuing to provide quality care to our most vulnerable populations, including those with sickle cell disease,” Love said.

The company believes it has enough of its SCD treatment, Oxbryta (voxelotor), to last into 2021.

GBT also seeks to assure SCD patients that GBT Source, the company’s support program for those prescribed Oxbryta, remains available to help with new enrollments and reimbursement, as well as financial, co-pay, treatment adherence, and refill support.

SCD is caused by a mutation in the HBB gene that provides instructions for making a hemoglobin component. The mutation results in an abnormal hemoglobin molecule that causes red blood cells to become stiff and elongated into a sickle shape, which can make them get stuck inside blood vessels and reduce oxygen delivery to body tissues.

Voxelotor, the active ingredient in Oxbryta, is a small molecule that binds to hemoglobin and raises its affinity for oxygen. Treatment with Oxbryta also may block the formation of hemoglobin complexes (called polymerization) and prevent deformation of red blood cells, which improves blood flow and oxygen delivery.

A confirmatory Phase 3 trial named HOPE Kids 2 (NCT04218084) is recruiting participants to test Oxbryta in children age 2–14 who have SCD.