Intravenous Vitamin C Increases Risk of Death From Sepsis, New Study Warns

Patients receiving vassopressor therapy and vitamin C infusions faced a higher risk of death and other health complications, researchers determined.

Researchers warn that intensive care unit (ICU) patients given intravenous vitamin C for treatment sepsis may face an increased risk of organ failure or death.

A study published last week in the New England Journal of Medicine on June 15 raises concerns over the use of intravenous vitamin C in sepsis patients that are already receiving vasopressor therapy, indicating the combination of therapeutic treatments had a higher rate of mortality or persistent organ dysfunction.

Sepsis is a life-threatening organ dysfunction caused by infection. It typically stems from serious infections like pneumonia, appendicitis, infections of the blood, and other infections like urinary infections and skin infections.

Roughly 1.7 million adults in the U.S. each year are diagnosed with sepsis, which results in 250,000 deaths. It is estimated that one in three patients who die in a U.S. hospital have sepsis as either the primary cause of death or as a contributing factor.

In this new study, Canadian researchers reviewed data from the phase III LOVIT trial conducted in France, Canada, and New Zealand involving patients diagnosed with sepsis who were receiving vasopressor therapy and had been in the ICU for no longer than 24 hours.
Researchers randomized a 1:1 ratio of patients receiving intravenous vitamin C for a total of 872 participants, 435 to the vitamin C group and 437 to the control group. A comparison of patient condition was measured at 28 days.

The study revealed 152 of 429 patients given vitamin C infusions died by the 28th day, whereas 137 of 434 not given vitamin C suffered fatal outcomes. For comparison, the fatality rate for vitamin C recipients was 35.4% compared to 31.6%, which the authors stated is a statistically significant difference.

Those given vitamin C intravenously were also associated with a nearly 4% higher risk of organ dysfunction and risk of experiencing a severe hypoglycemic episode or serious anaphylaxis event.

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Vitamin C has been used in patients diagnosed with sepsis for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, however, study authors stated both groups of sepsis patients had similar scores for risks of acute kidney injury and hypoglycemic episodes.

Lead author of the study, François Lamontagne, M.D of the of Université de Sherbrooke in Quebec, and colleagues concluded the findings show a need for additional, larger scale studies to determine the safety and efficacy of intravenous administration of vitamin C for sepsis patients receiving simultaneous vasopressor therapy.

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