Background: Hydroxyurea is one of the currently approved medications capable of modifying the pathogenesis of sickle cell disease (SCD), and its use has transformed the management of this disease worldwide.However, available evidences suggest that hydroxyurea is underutilized by sickle cell health-care providers in Nigeria despite the huge burden of the disease.

Objectives: This study assessed the level of utilization and provider-related barriers to the use of hydroxyurea in the treatment of SCD patients in Jos, Nigeria.

Methods: A cross-sectional study conducted among 132 medical doctors providing care for SCD patients in four tertiary hospitals in Jos using a multistage sampling technique. In this setting, SCD patients are cared for by the Hematologists, Pediatricians, Family Physicians and General Practitioners.

Data on socio-demographics of the respondents, knowledge, utilization and barriers to the utilization of hydroxyurea were obtained using an interviewer-administered questionnaire. The data were processed and analysed using SPSS version 23. Hydroxyurea was adjudged utilized if a provider has prescribed hydroxyurea to any SCD patient within the last 12 months.

Chi square test was used to test the association between the demographic, provider-related barrier variables and the level of utilization of hydroxyurea. The barriers were fed cumulatively into logistic regression model as predictors of utilization of hydroxyurea. Adjusted odds ratio and 95% confidence interval were used as point and interval estimates respectively. A P-value of <0.05 was considered statistically significant.

Results: Of the 132 respondents, 88 (67%) had been in medical practice for upward of six years while 80 (60.6%) of them affirmed that they have attended to more than 10 SCD patients in the last 6 months. Sixty-seven (50.8%) of the participants had inadequate knowledge of hydroxyurea use in SCD management while the level of utilization of hydroxyurea in SCD treatment was 24.2%. The odds of non-utilization of hydroxyurea was 5.1 times higher in providers with no expertise in its use (OR =5.1; 95% CI =2.65-9.05; P<0.0001). Other barriers that predicted its non-utilization included inadequate knowledge (OR =0.17; 95% CI =0.29-0.71; P=0.017), fear of side-effects (OR =0.50; 95% CI =0.22-0.68; P=0.019) and doubt about the effectiveness of the medication (OR =0.30; 95% CI =0.20-0.90; P=0.002).

Conclusion: The level of utilization of hydroxyurea in the treatment of SCD among the sickle cell care-providers is sub-optimal with the lack of expertise in its use identified as the most prominent barrier. Therefore, training of Nigeria sickle cell care-providers to attain and maintain competence in the use of hydroxyurea for the treatment of SCD is required.

Keywords: Sickle cell disease, hydroxyurea, utilization, barriers, Jos, Nigeria

Disclosures

No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.

Author notes

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Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.