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Pediatrics. 2019 Jul;144(1). pii: e20183285. doi: 10.1542/peds.2018-3285.

Hydroxyurea Use for Sickle Cell Disease Among Medicaid-Enrolled Children.

Author information

Department of Pediatrics, Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, Wisconsin;
Children's Hospital Association, Lenexa, Kansas.
Department of Pediatrics, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Divisions of Hospital Medicine and Infectious Diseases, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center and College of Medicine, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, Ohio.
Section of Academic General Pediatrics, Department of Pediatrics, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas.
Department of Pediatrics, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, South Carolina; and.
Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center, Children's Healthcare of Atlanta and Department of Pediatrics, School of Medicine, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia.



Recent publications should have resulted in increased hydroxyurea usage in children with sickle cell disease (SCD). We hypothesized that hydroxyurea use in children with SCD increased over time and was associated with decreased acute care visits.


This was a secondary analysis of the Truven Health Analytics-IBM Watson Health MarketScan Medicaid database from 2009 to 2015. The multistate, population-based cohort included children 1 to 19 years old with an International Classification of Diseases, Ninth or 10th Revision diagnosis of SCD between 2009 and 2015. Changes in hydroxyurea were measured across study years. The primary outcome was the receipt of hydroxyurea, identified through filled prescription claims. Acute care visits (emergency department visits and hospitalizations) were extracted from billing data.


A mean of 5138 children each year were included. Hydroxyurea use increased from 14.3% in 2009 to 28.2% in 2015 (P < .001). During the study period, the acute-care-visit rate decreased from 1.20 acute care visits per person-year in 2009 to 1.04 acute care visits per person-year in 2015 (P < .001); however, the drop in acute care visits was exclusively in the youngest and oldest age groups and was not seen when only children enrolled continuously from 2009 to 2015 were analyzed.


There was a significant increase in hydroxyurea use in children with SCD between 2009 and 2015. However, in 2015, only ∼1 in 4 children with SCD received hydroxyurea at least once. Increases in hydroxyurea were not associated with consistently decreased acute care visits in this population-based study of children insured by Medicaid.


Conflict of interest statement

POTENTIAL CONFLICT OF INTEREST: The authors have indicated they have no potential conflicts of interest to disclose.

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