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Monday, 6 March, 2000, 11:06 GMT
Racism claim on blood research
Sickle cell anaemia
Cells take on a characteristic sickle shape
Racial prejudice may be holding back research into the blood disorder sickle cell anaemia, an MP has said.

Jane Griffiths (Labour, Reading East) will raise her concerns in a House of Commons debate on Monday.

Ms Griffiths says that little is being done to find a cure for the potentially fatal disorder, and that this could be because it primarily affects black people.

She will raise the case of a constituent who had problems with an insurance policy after her daughter died from the disorder.

Sickle cell anaemia is a genetically inherited disease which affects blood cells' ability to carry oxygen.

Ms Griffiths will tell the Commons that one insurance professional told her that the disease was overlooked by his profession because in his words 'it affected blacks and they don't buy houses'.

The MP will call for the government to launch a strategy to counter ignorance about the disease.

Patients' views ignored

A report by the Department of Public Health Sciences at Guy's, King's and St Thomas' School of Medicine in 1998 found that people suffering from sickle cell anaemia felt they were not being listened to by the medical profession.

Patients said they were often either given too high or too low a dose of drugs because hospital doctors failed to take their views about their symptoms into account.

Sickle cell is most common in people of African origin, but also affects people from South and Central America, the Mediterranean, the Middle East and East India.

The disease is caused by a defective protein in red blood cells which makes them irregularly shaped and inflexible and caused blockages in the circulatory system.

It can lead to acute chest pain, anaemia, palpitations, bone wasting, painful swelling of hands and feet, strokes, an enlarged spleen and other infections, such as meningitis.

There are a variety of treatments for the disease, including strong pain-killing drugs.

If not treated it can be fatal.

It is estimated that by 2008 there will be 18,000 sufferers in the UK.

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