FDA Approval of Angiotensin II for the Treatment of Hypotension in Adults with Distributive Shock

Am J Cardiovasc Drugs. 2019 Feb;19(1):11-20. doi: 10.1007/s40256-018-0297-9.


Distributive shock is a subset of shock marked by decreased systemic vascular resistance, organ hypoperfusion and altered oxygen extraction. Despite the use of intravenous fluids and either higher dose of catecholamines or other additional exogenous vasopressors to maintain blood pressure in the target range, the rate of mortality remains higher in patients with septic shock. Therefore, there is clearly an unmet need for additional safe and effective treatments. The use of angiotensin II to raise the mean arterial pressure (MAP) could provide additional therapy and the opportunity to evaluate a catecholamine-sparing effect by decreasing the dose of concomitant catecholamines while maintaining a target MAP. ATHOS-3 (Angiotensin II for the Treatment of High-Output Shock phase 3; ClinicalTrials.gov number, NCT02338843) was an adequate and well-controlled trial. The primary endpoint was the rate of MAP response at hour 3 of treatment with study drug, defined as either a 10-mmHg increase from baseline in MAP or a MAP of at least 75 mmHg. The secondary endpoints were changes from baseline in Sequential Organ Failure Assessment (SOFA) scores (total and cardiovascular). Mortality was an exploratory endpoint. The trial provided substantial evidence of the effectiveness of angiotensin II in raising blood pressure over placebo in patients with distributive shock, while keeping catecholamine levels constant. There was no change in the secondary endpoint of total SOFA scores relative to placebo when catecholamine use was reduced in lieu of angiotensin II treatment. There was a slight decrease in the secondary endpoint of cardiovascular SOFA score relative to placebo during the catecholamine-sparing phase, reflecting the catecholamine-sparing effect. There was a consistent trend in decreased mortality relative to placebo over the 28-day study period. Based on the agreements emanating from the special protocol assessment to assess blood pressure effects, the data from this single study supported approval of angiotensin II by the Food and Drug Administration for marketing in the USA.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Angiotensin II / therapeutic use*
  • Blood Pressure / drug effects
  • Cardiovascular System / drug effects
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypotension / drug therapy*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Shock, Septic / drug therapy*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • United States
  • United States Food and Drug Administration
  • Vasoconstrictor Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Young Adult


  • Vasoconstrictor Agents
  • Angiotensin II

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT02338843