Deferoxamine is used to treat acute iron poisoning, especially in small children. This agent is also frequently used to treat hemochromatosis, a disease of iron accumulation that can be either genetic or acquired. Acquired hemochromatosis is common in patients with certain types of chronic anemia (e.g. thalassemia and myelodysplastic syndrome) who require many blood transfusions, which can greatly increase the amount of iron in the body. Treatment with iron-chelating drugs such as deferoxamine reduces mortality in persons with sickle cell disease or β‐thalassemia who are transfusion dependent.
Administration for chronic conditions is generally accomplished by subcutaneous injection over a period of 8–12 hours each day. Administration of deferoxamine after acute intoxication may color the urine a pinkish red, a phenomenon termed "vin rosé urine". Apart from iron toxicity, deferoxamine can be used to treat aluminium toxicity (an excess of aluminium in the body) in select patients. In US, the drug is not FDA-approved for this use. Deferoxamine is also used to minimize doxorubicin's cardiotoxic side effects and in the treatment of a patient with aceruloplasminemia. Deferoxamine maybe effective for improving neurologic outcomes in persons with intracranial hemorrhage, although the evidence supporting the efficacy and safety for this indication was weak.
Some published manuscripts suggesting the use of deferoxamine for patients diagnosed with COVID-19 because of the high level of ferritin among them.
It is unclear if use during pregnancy is safe for the baby.
Deferoxamine is produced by removal of the trivalent iron moiety from ferrioxamine B, an iron-bearing sideramine produced by the actinomycetes, Streptomyces pilosus. Its discovery was a serendipitous result of research conducted by scientists at Ciba in collaboration with scientists at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich and the University Hospital in Freiburg, Germany Deferoxamine acts by binding free iron in the bloodstream and enhancing its elimination in the urine. By removing excess iron from persons with hemochromatosis, the agent reduces the damage done to various organs and tissues, such as the liver. Also, it speeds healing of nerve damage (and minimizes the extent of recent nerve trauma). Deferoxamine may modulate expression and release of inflammatory mediators by specific cell types.
Deferoxamine is being studied as a treatment for spinal cord injury and intracerebral hemorrhage. It is also used to induce hypoxia-like environment in mesenchymal stem cells.
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