Background: Despite the availability of potent antibiotics and intensive care, mortality rates from septic shock are 40-70%. We assessed the safety and efficacy of murine monoclonal antibody to human tumour necrosis factor alpha (TNF alpha MAb) in the treatment of septic shock.
Methods: In a randomised, multicentre, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial in 105 hospitals in the USA and Canada, we randomly assigned 1879 patients a single infusion of 7.5 mg/kg TNF alpha MAb (n=949) or placebo (0.25% human serum albumin n=930). Our main outcome measurement was the rate of all-cause mortality at 28 days.
Findings: 382 (40.3%) of 948 patients who received TNF alpha MAb and 398 (42.8%) of 930 who received placebo had died at 28 days (95% CI -0.02 to 0.07, p=0.27). We found no association between therapy with TNF alpha MAb and increased rapidity in reversal of initial shock or prevention of subsequent shock. Similarly, baseline plasma interleukin-6 concentrations of more than 1000 pg/mL or detectable circulating TNF concentrations were not associated with improvement in survival after TNF alpha MAb therapy. Coagulopathy but not other organ or system failures, was significantly decreased in the TNF alpha MAb group compared with placebo (day 7, p<0.001; day 28, p=0.005). Serious adverse events were reported in 55.2% of patients given placebo and 54.1% in the TNF alpha MAb group.
Interpretation: We did not find an improvement in survival after septic shock with TNF alpha MAb. Therapy not solely dependent on TNF alpha blockade may be required to improve survival.