Introduction: Iron overload is the primary cause of mortality and morbidity in thalassemia major (TM) despite advances in chelation therapy. The aim of this study was to compare the effectiveness and safety of deferasirox (DFX) and deferoxamine (DFO) as iron-chelating agents in patients with transfusion-dependent β-thalassemia major. 

Methods: This prospective randomized study included 60 patients with transfusion-dependent β-TM during the period from September 2014 to September 2015. Their ages were ≥ 6 years, and they had serum ferritin above 1500 µg/L and were on irregular DFO therapy. Patients had regular packed red cell transfusion in a dose of 10 mL/kg/session. They were randomized to receive DFX (single oral daily dose of 20-40 mg/kg/day) or DFO (20-50 mg/kg/day via subcutaneous infusion over 8-10 hours, 5 days a week). Iron overload was determined by serum ferritin level. The primary endpoint was decrease of serum ferritin level below 1500 μg/L. The secondary endpoint was drug safety. 

Results: Both drugs significantly reduced serum ferritin (p < 0.001). At the end of follow-up, there were no significant differences between the two groups in serum ferritin levels (p = 0.673) and in percent reduction of ferritin (p = 0.315). There were no significant differences between the two groups in the total amount of blood transfusion (p = 0.166) and average iron intake (p = 0.227). There were no mortalities or any serious adverse effects, neutropenia, arthropathy, or pulmonary toxicity. Gastrointestinal upset and skin rash occurred more frequently with DFX than with DFO (p = 0.254 and 0.095, respectively). 

Conclusion: With appropriate dosing and compliance with drugs, both DFX and DFO are generally well tolerated, safe, and effective in reducing serum ferritin levels in iron-overloaded, regularly-transfused thalassemia major patients. Therefore, oral DFX is recommended for more convenience and adherence to the treatment regimen.


Keywords: iron chelators, iron overload, thalassemia, efficacy, safety
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