VCU: Vitamin C therapy for sepsis cuts mortality rate, hospital days

New research out of Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) shows patients with sepsis could have a reduced mortality rate and spend less time in the hospital when treated with vitamin C infusions.

Published in the October issue of JAMA, the study showed that intravenous vitamin C therapy reduced mortality in septic patients from 46% in the placebo group to almost 30% in the vitamin C group at day 28.

The primary goal of the study was to explore whether intravenous vitamin C could address organ failure—a common complication of sepsis—more successfully than current treatments for sepsis. The VCU CITRIS-ALI trial did not support that theory either after 96 hours or 168 hours.

However, the vitamin C was associated with a significantly reduced number of days patients were hospitalized and days spent in the intensive care unit (ICU).

Specifically, the vitamin C group spent three fewer days in the ICU—seven days versus 10—and one week less in the hospital overall—15 days versus 22—than patients in the placebo group.

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According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, sepsis accounted for $23.7 billion in U.S. hospital costs in 2013.

“This therapy could potentially transform the way we care for sepsis patients. We may have found a lifesaving therapy,” said Alpha Fowler III, M.D., a professor in the division of pulmonary disease and critical care medicine in the department of internal medicine at the VCU School of Medicine and an author. “While further research is needed, the results from our preliminary study are encouraging.”

But in this report’s discussion, the authors note that the inability of vitamin C to affect C-reactive protein levels in organs possibly resulted from the advanced stages of sepsis that were presented. In other words, the vitamin C infusion was given too late.

Further trials would need to be conducted to make this determination, researchers said.