Drotrecogin alfa (activated) for adults with severe sepsis and a low risk of death

N Engl J Med. 2005 Sep 29;353(13):1332-41. doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa050935.


Background: In November 2001, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved drotrecogin alfa (activated) (DrotAA) for adults who had severe sepsis and a high risk of death. The FDA required a study to evaluate the efficacy of DrotAA for adults who had severe sepsis and a low risk of death.

Methods: We randomly assigned adult patients with severe sepsis and a low risk of death (defined by an Acute Physiology and Chronic Health Evaluation [APACHE II] score <25 or single-organ failure) to receive an intravenous infusion of placebo or DrotAA (24 microg per kilogram of body weight per hour) for 96 hours in a double-blind, placebo-controlled, multicenter trial. The prospectively defined primary end point was death from any cause and was assessed 28 days after the start of the infusion. In-hospital mortality within 90 days after the start of the infusion was measured, and safety information was collected.

Results: Enrollment in the trial was terminated early because of a low likelihood of meeting the prospectively defined objective of demonstrating a significant reduction in the 28-day mortality rate with the use of DrotAA. The study enrolled 2640 patients and collected data on 2613 (1297 in the placebo group and 1316 in the DrotAA group) at the 28-day follow-up. There were no statistically significant differences between the placebo group and the DrotAA group in 28-day mortality (17.0 percent in the placebo group vs. 18.5 percent in the DrotAA group; P=0.34; relative risk, 1.08; 95 percent confidence interval, 0.92 to 1.28) or in in-hospital mortality (20.5 percent vs. 20.6 percent; P=0.98; relative risk, 1.00; 95 percent confidence interval, 0.86 to 1.16). The rate of serious bleeding was greater in the DrotAA group than in the placebo group during both the infusion (2.4 percent vs. 1.2 percent, P=0.02) and the 28-day study period (3.9 percent vs. 2.2 percent, P=0.01).

Conclusions: The absence of a beneficial treatment effect, coupled with an increased incidence of serious bleeding complications, indicates that DrotAA should not be used in patients with severe sepsis who are at low risk for death, such as those with single-organ failure or an APACHE II score less than 25.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Clinical Trial, Phase IV
  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Infective Agents / adverse effects
  • Anti-Infective Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Hemorrhage / chemically induced
  • Hospital Mortality
  • Humans
  • Infusions, Intravenous
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Protein C / adverse effects
  • Protein C / therapeutic use*
  • Recombinant Proteins / adverse effects
  • Recombinant Proteins / therapeutic use
  • Risk Factors
  • Sepsis / classification
  • Sepsis / drug therapy*
  • Sepsis / mortality
  • Survival Analysis
  • Treatment Failure


  • Anti-Infective Agents
  • Protein C
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • drotrecogin alfa activated