The controversial role of deferiprone in the treatment of thalassemia

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The role of the orally active iron (Fe) chelator deferiprone in the treatment of β-thalassemia remains a controversial subject. Despite initial studies showing high Fe chelation efficacy in vitro and also in animals and human subjects, several latter studies have not been so successful. In fact, it has been reported in several clinical trials that deferiprone after long-term treatment had either little effect or actually increased hepatic Fe loading. In addition, an increase in liver fibrosis was noted in one study. However, more recently, results by other investigators have suggested that the drug may be used under some circumstances without marked toxicity. In particular, it has been demonstrated that the combination of deferoxamine (DFO) and deferiprone results in more Fe excretion than when either chelator is used alone. Moreover, a combination of both drugs led to a decrease in deferiprone-mediated toxicity. Other studies performed in patients for up to 10 years showed no progressive fibrosis after deferiprone therapy, while a possible trend toward increasing fibrosis was noted in another investigation. Additional studies using larger numbers of deferiprone-treated patients are essential to determine the efficacy and safety of this drug, particularly in relation to the development of fibrosis. The present review discusses the possible role of deferiprone in the treatment of Fe overload. (J Lab Clin Med 2001:137:324-9)

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