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Clinical question: Does treatment with drotrecogin alfa (activated) reduce mortality in patients with septic shock?

Background: Recombinant human activated protein C, or drotrecogin alfa (activated) (DrotAA), was approved for the treatment of patients with severe sepsis in 2001 on the basis of the Prospective Recombinant Human Activated Protein C Worldwide Evaluation in Severe Sepsis (PROWESS) study. Since its approval, conflicting reports about its efficacy have surfaced.

Study design: Double-blind, randomized-controlled trial.

Setting: Multicenter, multinational trial.

Synopsis: This trial enrolled 1,697 patients with septic shock to receive either DrotAA or placebo. At 28 days, 223 of 846 patients (26.4%) in the DrotAA group and 202 of 834 (24.2%) in the placebo group had died (relative risk in the DrotAA group, 1.09; 95% confidence interval, 0.92 to 1.28; P=0.31). At 90 days, there was still no significant difference in mortality. Mortality was also unchanged in patients with severe protein C deficiency at baseline. This lack of mortality benefit with either therapy persisted across all predefined subgroups in this study.

The incidence of nonserious bleeding was more common among patients who received DrotAA than among those in the placebo group (8.6% vs. 4.8%, P=0.002), but the incidence of serious bleeding events was similar in both groups. This study was appropriately powered after adjusting the sample size when aggregate mortality was found to be lower than anticipated.

Bottom line: DrotAA does not significantly reduce mortality at 28 or 90 days in patients with septic shock.

Citation: Ranieri VM, Thompson BT, Barie PS, et al. Drotrecogin alfa (activated) in adults with septic shock. N Engl J Med. 2012;366:2055-2064.

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