The information provided here is meant to give you a general idea about each of the medications listed below. Only the most general side effects are included, so ask your health care provider if you need to take any special precautions. Use each of these medications only as recommended by your health care provider, and according to the instructions provided. If you have further questions about usage or side effects, contact your health care provider.

There are no medications to cure sickle cell disease. Instead, medications are given to treat symptoms and complications, improve the body’s ability to fight infection, and boost the body’s production of red blood cells.

Prescription Medications

Hydroxyurea

  • Hydrea
  • Droxia

Penicillin

  • Amoxil
  • Bactocill
  • Bicillin L-A
  • Pen Vee K
  • Staphcillin
  • V-Cillin K

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)

  • Indomethacin (Indocin)
  • Ketorolac (Toradol)
  • Ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil, Nuprin)
  • Naproxen (Naprosyn, Anaprox, Aleve)

Narcotics

  • Cotanal-65
  • Demerol
  • Dolophine
  • MS Contin
  • OxyContin

Over-the-Counter Medications

Aspirin

  • Anacin
  • Bayer
  • Bufferin
  • Doan’s
  • Ecotrin
  • St. Joseph’s

Acetaminophen

  • Tylenol
  • Panadol
  • Tempra

Prescription Medications

Hydroxyurea

Common names include:

  • Hydrea
  • Droxia

Hydroxyurea is a chemotherapy agent often used to treat cancers, such as leukemia. It appears to help the body produce slightly more normal red blood cells that are slightly more flexible and don’t block blood vessels as frequently. Most patients who take hydroxyurea need fewer blood transfusions than patients who don’t take this medicine.

Hydroxyurea affects your immune system, so while you are taking it, don’t get any immunizations without reminding your healthcare provider that you are taking this drug.

Possible side effects include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Increased chance of infection

Penicillin

Common brand names include:

Penicillin is given routinely to children between the ages of 2 months and 5 years who have sickle cell disease. Penicillin can prevent these children from developing infections, especially pneumococcal pneumonia. It is sometimes given to adults, too.

Possible side effects include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Allergic rash (hives)
  • Interference with oral contraceptive (birth control) pills
  • False results on blood sugar tests in people with diabetes

Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)

Common names include:

NSAIDs are given to treat pain. Although some types are available over-the-counter, your healthcare provider may choose to give you a prescription so that you can take a higher dose.

Take your doses with food because many of these medications irritate the stomach. Don’t drink alcohol while you are taking NSAIDs.

Possible side effects include:

Narcotic Medications

Common brand names include:

Narcotic medications are given to treat pain. They can slow your breathing, and you should not drink alcohol or take other pain medications or sedatives at the same time.

Possible side effects include:

  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Dry mouth
  • Dependence

Over-the-Counter Medications

Aspirin

Common brand names include:

  • Anacin
  • Bayer
  • Bufferin
  • Doan’s
  • Ecotrin
  • St. Joseph’s

Aspirin helps control inflammation and decrease pain. Aspirin can be irritating to the stomach, so take it with food.

Because aspirin has blood-thinning properties, always remind your healthcare providers that you are on this medicine before dental or medical procedures, or surgeries.

NOTE: Aspirin is not recommended for children with a current or recent viral infection. Check with your doctor before giving a child aspirin.

Possible side effects include:

  • Stomach irritation
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Exacerbation of asthma
  • Increased bleeding time

Acetaminophen

Common brand names include:

  • Tylenol
  • Panadol
  • Tempra

Acetaminophen is a mild pain reliever. It is also effective for treating fevers. Do not drink alcohol while you are taking acetaminophen.

Special Considerations

Whenever you are taking a prescription medication, take the following precautions:

  • Take them as directed—not more, not less, not at a different time.
  • Do not stop taking them without consulting your doctor.
  • Don’t share them with anyone else.
  • Know what effects and side effects to expect, and report them to your doctor.
  • If you are taking more than one drug, even if it is over-the-counter, be sure to check with a physician or pharmacist about drug interactions.
  • Plan ahead for refills so you don’t run out.

When to Contact Your Doctor

Contact your doctor if:

  • Your symptoms become worse instead of better
  • You develop a new skin rash
  • You develop a new fever