Adakveo for Sickle Cell Disease

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: February 2023

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Adakveo in 2019 to treat sickle cell disease (SCD) in people 16 years of age and older. It reduces the frequency of acute pain crises by preventing sickle cells from blocking blood flow.

Adakveo is given by a healthcare professional as an infusion into the vein (intravenous).

What are the ingredients in Adakveo?

The active ingredient in Adakveo is crizanlizumab-tmca.1

How does Adakveo work?

Crizanlizumab-tmca an antibody that blocks a protein called P-selectin. Antibodies are proteins designed in a lab to bind to a specific molecule in the body. P-selectin is a protein on cells along the inner wall of blood vessels. P-selectin normally controls how white blood cells stick to blood vessel walls after injury.2

In SCD, P-selectin adheres sickle cells to blood vessel walls. P-selectin can also be found on platelets, and it can also cause platelets, white blood cells, and red blood cells to stick together. This blocks blood flow through small blood vessels and causes acute pain crises. By blocking P-selectin, Adakveo prevents sickle cells from sticking to blood vessel walls, platelets, red blood cells, and white blood cells. This maintains normal blood flow and reduces pain crises.2,3

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What are the possible side effects of Adakveo?

The most common side effects of Adakveo include:1

  • Nausea
  • Back pain
  • Joint stiffness
  • Fever

Serious side effects of Adakveo can occur when the body has a reaction to the IV infusion. These side effects usually appear immediately (within a day) of the infusion and most commonly occurred with the first and second infusions. Possible symptoms of an infusion-related reaction include:1

  • Fever
  • Chills or shivering
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Tiredness
  • Dizziness
  • Sweating
  • Hives or itching
  • Shortness of breath or wheezing
  • Contact your doctor right away if you experience any symptoms of an infusion-related reaction.

These are not all the possible side effects of Adakveo. Talk to your doctor about what to expect when taking Adakveo. You also should call your doctor if you have any changes that concern you when taking Adakveo.

Things to know about Adakveo

Adakveo may interfere with some blood tests. Tell any doctors performing blood tests that you are taking Adakveo.1

Studies show that Adakveo has the potential to harm an unborn baby. There is not enough information about Adakveo to know whether it is safe to use when breastfeeding. Before taking this medicine, talk to your doctor if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, or plan to become pregnant.1

Adakveo can be given alone or with hydroxyurea, but Adakveo is much more expensive than hydroxyurea. It costs around $100,000 a year and must be taken for a long time. The price needs to be lowered for most people with SCD to experience benefits from Adakveo. Experts hope that health insurance providers will cover Adakveo because it can reduce hospital stays and overall healthcare costs. But insurers may require people to try hydroxyurea first.4

Before beginning treatment for SCD, tell your doctor about all your health conditions and any other drugs, vitamins, or supplements you take. This includes over-the-counter drugs.

For more information, read the full prescribing information of Adakveo.