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World Sickle Cell Day 2020: Novartis Takes Further Steps to Make Sickle Cell Disease a Healthcare Priority in Europe



Many patients with SCD only live into their 40s and endure unpredictable pain crises which disrupt their lives physically, socially and emotionally.1 It is a genetic condition which is life-long and rising across Europe.2 Despite the World Health Organization recognising SCD as a global problem, knowledge about SCD among healthcare providers and the public is poor.3 SCD remains an invisible health issue in Europe and Novartis is dedicated to help make SCD a healthcare priority in Europe.

“SCD is a neglected chronic disease of increasing global health importance. There is a lot of work to be done to help the growing numbers of patients in Europe,” Professor Béatrice Gulbis, Co-coordinator of the European Reference Network EUROBLOODNET and specialist of inherited rare anemias. “It is important for healthcare professionals, policymakers, patients and the public-at-large to understand the severity of sickle cell disease and take a European-wide collaborative action on education, funding for research and awareness, and guidance and tools for screening and follow-up.”

SCD is a genetic blood disorders affecting millions of people worldwide. 4 It is a life-long and debilitating disease.5 It also has a substantial impact on patients’ emotional well-being and daily life affecting their ability to work and complete education.6 SCD financially affects the individual and their family; society and healthcare systems. 7 The burden of blood disorders in Europe is €23 billion per year, a level of cost that is not matched in current European haematology research funding.7

Early diagnosis and regular medical care can prevent complications and contribute to improved life expectancy and quality of life, however, a recent survey revealed that many patients don’t seek care despite symptoms and complications due to previous poor experience at hospital (39%) with some reporting that healthcare providers do not understand the disease (26%).6,8 Novartis is calling for a European-wide collaborative action on education, funding for research and awareness; and make sure that the patients receive equal and homogeneous healthcare access and treatment across Europe .

Tomorrow, a panel of EU experts and patients will be coming together for a one-hour webinar to highlight the lack of awareness and mis-conceptions of SCD amongst policy makers and the public in Europe. The meeting aims to highlight the action required to help improve the lives of those living with this debilitating disease. The experts will explore:

  • SCD and the complexity of its diagnosis and management
  • The burden of SCD on quality of life for patients and caregivers
  • The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on existing and emerging rare diseases in Europe
  • Why there is a need for urgent strategy to address equal access to treatment in Europe

The expert panel comprises:

  • Miriam Santos Freire, Patient Advocate
  • Mariane De Montalembert, Healthcare Professional – (Eurobloodnet, ERN)
  • Simone Boselli, Public Affairs Director – (European Organisation for Rare Diseases, EURORDIS)
  • Yolande Adjibi, Head of Patient Relations in Sickle Cell Disease – (Novartis, Region Europe)

Yolande Adjibi, Head of Patient Relations in Sickle Cell Disease at Novartis comments: “For over 40 years, Novartis has been committed to understanding SCD and working towards treatment. We aim to support patients, healthcare providers and caregivers in their experiences with this debilitating disease. However, more needs to be done. We need to start conversations which will spark a positive change for SCD patients.”

In 2016 The European Hematology Association identified a need to improve treatment strategies for both acute and chronic complications of SCD to optimise patient care, in order to positively affect patient health and quality of life, and to reduce hospitalisation length, patient disability, and cost of care but limited progress has been made.7 As COVID-19 poses an additional threat to the lives of SCD patients and subsequently healthcare systems across Europe, urgent action is required to help improve the lives of those affected by SCD and to guide healthcare systems towards early diagnosis and equal access to treatment.

To join the conversation and pose questions directly to the panel please register here:

- END –

About Sickle Cell Disease

Sickle cell disease is a debilitating inherited genetic blood disorder that affects the shape of the red blood cells and can make blood cells and blood vessels stickier than usual.9,10 When blood cells stick to one another, they can form multicellular adhesion clusters in the bloodstream. These clusters can reduce and block the flow of blood and oxygen, which can cause damage to the blood vessels and lead to acute and chronic complications.6,9 These blockages also can lead to painful crises called VOCs, which are considered the clinical hallmark of the disease and the main reason why patients seek medical care in hospitals.9

About Novartis

Novartis is reimagining medicine to improve and extend people's lives. As a leading global medicines company, we use innovative science and digital technologies to create transformative treatments in areas of great medical need. In our quest to find new medicines, we consistently rank among the world's top companies investing in research and development. Novartis products reach more than 750 million people globally and we are finding innovative ways to expand access to our latest treatments. About 105 000 people of more than 140 nationalities work at Novartis around the world. Find out more at


1 Adegbola M, et al. 2012. Voices of adults living with sickle cell disease pain. J Natl Black Nurses Assoc. 23(2), pp.16-23.

2 Roberts I, de Montalambert M. 2007. Sickle Cell disease as a paradigm of immigration haematology: new challenges for hematologists in Europe. Haematologica 92(7)pp.865-71.

3 Mburu, Joy; Odame, I. 2019. Sickle Cell Disease: Reducing the Global Disease Burden. Int J Lab Hematol (41) 1:82-88.

4 Jain D, Lothe A, Roshan C. 2015. Sickle cell disease: current challenges. Journal of Hematology & Thromboembolic Diseases. 10. Doi: 10.4172/2329-8790.1000224.

5 Steinberg M. 1999. Management of sickle cell disease. N Engl J Med. 340(13):1021-1030.

6 Osunkwo I, Andemariam B, Inusa B, et al. Management Strategies and Satisfaction Levels in Patients With Sickle Cell Disease: Interim Results From the International Sickle Cell World Assessment Survey (SWAY). Poster presented at: The American Society of Hematology Annual Meeting; December 7-10, 2019; Orlando, FL.

7 European Hematology Association (EHA) Roadmap for European Hematology Research: A Consensus Document (2016), Available at: (Accessed June 2020).

8 National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. Sickle Cell Disease. Available at: (Accessed June 2020).

9 Gutsaeva D, Parkerson J, Yerigenahally S, et al. 2011. Inhibition of cell adhesion by anti-P-selectin aptamer: a new potential therapeutic agent for Sickle Cell Disease. 13;17(2), pp.727-35.

10 Sparkenbaugh E, Pawlinski R. 2013. Interplay between coagulation and vascular inflammation in sickle cell disease. Br J Haematol. 162(1). Pp.2-14.

Contact information

For further information please contact:
Yolande Adjibi
Head of Patient Relations in Sickle Cell Disease, Novartis, Region Europe
Tel: +33155476000

Laura Mckinlay
Senior Account Director
Tel: +44 (0)7376 802 980

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