The management of children suffering from sickle cell disease [sickle cell anaemia (SCA) and sickle cell β°-thalassaemia (Sβ°-thal.)] has been the concern of all clinicians caring for these patients. Several agents have been tried for treatment, often limited by toxic side effects. Piracetam (2-oxo-1-pyrrolidine acetamide, Nootropyl®), a cyclic derivative of γ-amino butyrate, used for the treatment of psychosenescent syndromes with no known side effects, was considered as a possible therapeutic agent for sickle cell disease. Interest was focused on the use of piracetam when it was shown that it had an antisickling effect, both in vivo and in vitro. We initiated multicentre double-blind investigations in two groups of children suffering from sickle cell disease ranging in age from 3-6 to 6-12 years. The total number of patients included in the study were 87 (SCA = 79 and Hb Sβ°-thal. = 8) in 13 centres in 10 different regions of Saudi Arabia. Coded boxes of the drugs were received from the company (UCB) and were administered as intravenous infusion during crises and orally during the follow-up, for a period of up to 1 year. After decoding the code at the end of the study, the patients were grouped into those receiving placebo (n = 39), i.e. controls, or piracetam (n = 48), i.e. study cases. In terms of age, weight, height and severity index, number of blood transfusions received and number of hospitalization, both groups were statistically homogenous. Data analysis showed that the clinical severity of the disease, the number of crises, the extent of hospitalization and the blood transfusion requirements significantly decreased during piracetam treatment (p < 0.001), though no statistically significant changes occurred in the placebo group. However, in the levels of the haematological and biochemical parameters no significant changes were documented in both groups. In addition, the improvement in the clinical presentation of the disease continued even several months after discontinuation of the drug in the majority of the children, as judged from the low severity index value. Though our results point to the recommendation that piracetam can be used for the treatment of children suffering from sickle cell disease, both SCA asnd Sβ°-thal, it is advisable to conduct long-term and close follow-up treatment programmes using piracetam to establish its therapeutic value particularly in adults and to ascertain that there are no long-term toxic side effects.

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