The St. Jude Children's Research Hospital-led national BABY HUG trial linked hydroxyurea to a 21 percent reduction in annual medical costs for young children with sickle cell anemia; savings expected to growMEMPHIS, Tenn., Sept. 2, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A drug proven effective for treatment of adults and children with sickle cell anemia reduced hospitalizations and cut annual estimated medical costs by 21 percent for affected infants and toddlers, according to an analysis led by St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. The report appears today in the advance online edition of the journal Pediatrics. The study is the largest ever focusing on the economic impact of the drug hydroxyurea in children with the inherited blood disorder. The result supports expanded use of the drug to extend the length and quality of life for sickle cell anemia patients of all ages, said Winfred Wang, M.D., a member of the St. Jude Department of Hematology and principal investigator of the multicenter federally funded trial known as BABY HUG. "We estimate that hydroxyurea cut overall annual medical expenses about $3,000 for each patient by helping patients avoid disease complications that require inpatient hospital care," said Wang, who is first and corresponding author of the Pediatrics study. "We expect those savings will grow along with patients, whose symptoms often increase in severity and frequency as they age." About 100,000 individuals in the U.S. and millions worldwide have sickle cell disease, which leaves them at risk for premature death and disability. The disease is the most common genetic disorder affecting African-American individuals, but those from other ethnic and racial backgrounds also inherit mutations in the hemoglobin gene. The mutations result in blood cells that are prone to assuming the sickled shape that gives the disease its name and that leave patients at increased risk for episodes of acute pain, stroke, organ damage and other complications.