Background: Sepsis is a common and frequently fatal condition. Human recombinant activated protein C (APC) has been introduced to reduce the high risk of death associated with severe sepsis or septic shock. This systematic review is an update of a Cochrane review originally published in 2007.
Objectives: We assessed the benefits and harms of APC for patients with severe sepsis or septic shock.
Search methods: We searched CENTRAL (The Cochrane Library 2012, Issue 6); MEDLINE (2010 to June 2012); EMBASE (2010 to June 2012); BIOSIS (1965 to June 2012); CINAHL (1982 to June 2012) and LILACS (1982 to June 2012). There was no language restriction.
Selection criteria: We included randomized clinical trials assessing the effects of APC for severe sepsis or septic shock in adults and children. We excluded studies on neonates. We considered all-cause mortality at day 28 and at the end of study follow up, and hospital mortality as the primary outcomes.
Data collection and analysis: We independently performed trial selection, risk of bias assessment, and data extraction in duplicate. We estimated relative risks (RR) for dichotomous outcomes. We measured statistical heterogeneity using the I(2) statistic. We used a random-effects model.
Main results: We identified one new randomized clinical trial in this update which includes six randomized clinical trials involving 6781 participants in total, five randomized clinical trials in adult (N = 6307) and one randomized clinical trial in paediatric (N = 474) participants. All trials had high risk of bias and were sponsored by the pharmaceutical industry. APC compared with placebo did not significantly affect all-cause mortality at day 28 compared with placebo (780/3435 (22.7%) versus 767/3346 (22.9%); RR 1.00, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.86 to 1.16; I(2) = 56%). APC did not significantly affect in-hospital mortality (393/1767 (22.2%) versus 379/1710 (22.1%); RR 1.01, 95% CI 0.87 to 1.16; I(2) = 20%). APC was associated with an increased risk of serious bleeding (113/3424 (3.3%) versus 74/3343 (2.2%); RR 1.45, 95% CI 1.08 to 1.94; I(2) = 0%). APC did not significantly affect serious adverse events (463/3334 (13.9%) versus 439/3302 (13.2%); RR 1.04, 95% CI 0.92 to 1.18; I(2) = 0%). Trial sequential analyses showed that more trials do not seem to be needed for reliable conclusions regarding these outcomes.
Authors' conclusions: This updated review found no evidence suggesting that APC should be used for treating patients with severe sepsis or septic shock. APC seems to be associated with a higher risk of bleeding. The drug company behind APC, Eli Lilly, has announced the discontinuation of all ongoing clinical trials using this drug for treating patients with severe sepsis or septic shock. APC should not be used for sepsis or septic shock outside randomized clinical trials.