Object: The authors prospectively studied the efficacy of tirilazad mesylate, a novel aminosteroid, in humans with head injuries.
Methods: A cohort of 1120 head-injured patients received at least one dose of study medication (tirilazad or placebo). Eighty-five percent (957) of the patients had suffered a severe head injury (Glasgow Coma Scale [GCS] score 4-8) and 15% (163) had sustained a moderate head injury (GCS score 9-12). Six-month outcomes for the tirilazad- and placebo-treated groups for the Glasgow Outcome Scale categories of both good recovery and death showed no significant difference (good recovery in the tirilazad-treated group was 39% compared with the placebo group in which it was 42% [p=0.461]; death in the tirilazad-treated group occurred in 26% of patients compared with the placebo group, in which it occurred in 25% [p=0.750]). Subgroup analysis suggested that tirilazad mesylate may be effective in reducing mortality rates in males suffering from severe head injury with accompanying traumatic subarachnoid hemorrhage (death in the tirilazad-treated group occurred in 34% of patients; in the placebo group it occurred in 43% [p=0.026]). No significant differences in frequency or types of serious adverse events were shown between the treatment and placebo groups.
Conclusions: Striking problems with imbalance concerning basic prognostic variables were observed in spite of the large population studied. These imbalances concerned pretreatment hypotension, pretreatment hypoxia, and the incidence of epidural hematomas. In future trials of pharmacological therapy for severe head injury, serious consideration must be given to alternative randomization strategies. Given the heterogeneous nature of head injury and the identification of populations that do relatively well with standard therapy, target populations with a higher risk for mortality and morbidity may be more suitable for clinical trials of such agents.