Though there is no cure for haemophilia, it can be controlled with regular infusions of the deficient clotting factor, i.e. factor VIII in haemophilia A or factor IX in haemophilia B. Factor replacement can be either isolated from human blood serum, recombinant, or a combination of the two. Some haemophiliacs develop antibodies (inhibitors) against the replacement factors given to them, so the amount of the factor has to be increased or non-human replacement products must be given, such as porcine factor VIII.
If a patient becomes refractory to replacement coagulation factor as a result of circulating inhibitors, this may be partially overcome with recombinant human factor VII (NovoSeven), which is registered for this indication in many countries.
In early 2008, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Xyntha (Wyeth) anti-haemophilic factor, genetically engineered from the genes of Chinese hamster ovary cells. Since 1993 (Dr. Mary Nugent) recombinant factor products (which are typically cultured in Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) tissue culture cells and involve little, if any human plasma products) have been available and have been widely used in wealthier western countries. While recombinant clotting factor products offer higher purity and safety, they are, like concentrate, extremely expensive, and not generally available in the developing world. In many cases, factor products of any sort are difficult to obtain in developing countries.
In Western countries, common standards of care fall into one of two categories: prophylaxis or on-demand. Prophylaxis involves the infusion of clotting factor on a regular schedule in order to keep clotting levels sufficiently high to prevent spontaneous bleeding episodes. On-demand treatment involves treating bleeding episodes once they arise. In 2007, a clinical trial was published in the ''New England Journal of Medicine'' comparing on-demand treatment of boys (< 30 months) with haemophilia A with prophylactic treatment (infusions of 25 IU/kg body weight of Factor VIII every other day) in respect to its effect on the prevention of joint-diseases. When the boys reached 6 years of age, 93% of those in the prophylaxis group and 55% of those in the episodic-therapy group had a normal index joint-structure on MRI. Prophylactic treatment, however, resulted in average costs of $300,000 per year. The author of an editorial published in the same issue of the ''NEJM'' supports the idea that prophylactic treatment not only is more effective than on demand treatment but also suggests that starting after the first serious joint related hemorrhage may be more cost effective than waiting until the fixed age to begin. This study resulted in the first (October 2008) FDA approval to label any Factor VIII product to be used as prophylactically. As a result, the factor product used in the study (Bayer's Kognate) is now labeled for use to prevent bleeds, making it more likely that insurance carries in the US will reimburse consumers who are prescribed and use this product prophylactically. Despite Kognate only recently being "approved" for this use in the US, it and other factor products have been well studied and are often prescribed to treat Haemophilia prophylactically to prevent bleeds, especially joint bleeds.
It is recommended that people affected with haemophilia do specific exercises to strengthen the joints, particularly the elbows, knees, and ankles. Exercises include elements which increase flexibility, tone, and strength of muscles, increasing their ability to protect joints from damaging bleeds. These exercises are recommended after an internal bleed occurs and on a daily basis to strengthen the muscles and joints to prevent new bleeding problems. Many recommended exercises include standard sports warm-up and training exercises such as stretching of the calves, ankle circles, elbow flexions, and quadriceps sets.
Alternative and complementary treatments
While not a replacement for traditional treatments, preliminary scientific studies indicate that hypnosis and self-hypnosis can be effective at reducing bleeds and the severity of bleeds and thus the frequency of factor treatment. Herbs which strengthen blood vessels and act as astringents may benefit patients with haemophilia, however there are no peer reviewed scientific studies to support these claims. Suggested herbs include: Bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus), Grape seed extract (Vitis vinifera), Scotch broom (Cytisus scoparius), Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica), Witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana), and yarrow (Achillea millefolium).
Also contraindicated are activities with a high likelihood of trauma, such as motorcycling and skateboarding. Popular sports with very high rates of physical contact and injuries such as American football, hockey, boxing, wrestling, and rugby should be avoid by people with haemophilia. Other active sports like soccer, baseball, and basketball also have a high rate of injuries, but have overall less contact and should be undertaken cautiously and only in consultation with a doctor. About 18,000 people in the United States have haemophilia. Each year in the US, about 400 babies are born with the disorder. Haemophilia usually occurs in males and less often in females. It is estimated that about 2500 Canadians have haemophilia A, and about 500 Canadians have haemophilia B.
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Last Updated: Feb 1, 2011