An intravenous vitamin-corticosteroid cocktail some had called “snake oil” is now the subject of two large studies after a Virginia doctor found it to be an effective treatment for sepsis, the leading cause of death in American hospitals, National Public Radio reported on Friday.
Sepsis is a condition in which the body’s inflammatory response rages out of control in reaction to an infection, often leading to organ damage or failure. It kills an estimated 700 people a day and strikes more than one million Americans annually.
A previous study published online in a 2017 issue of CHEST, an American College of Chest Physicians medical journal, showed that in 47 patients in treatment and control groups, mortality was 8.5 percent in the treatment group compared with 40.4 percent (19 of 47) in the control group, Science Direct reported.
Dr. Paul Marik has been using the cocktail of intravenous vitamin C, vitamin B1 (thiamine) and corticosteroids since 2016 in his practice at Norfolk General Hospital and said it had saved the lives of most of his patients with sepsis.
Marik, who also teaches at the Eastern Virginia Medical School, said his treatment had been met with skepticism, with some doctors referring to the mixture as “snake oil.”
“There obviously was enormous resistance at the beginning, but it seems that with time, people started thinking about it and saying, ‘maybe this isn’t as outrageous as we first thought,'” Marik told NPR.
Kurt Hofelich, Norfolk General Hospital’s president, told The Virginian-Pilot last year that the protocol was being rolled out to other intensive care units in the health system to validate the findings.
“We hypothesize that this new treatment will evolve into a national best practice and a new standard of care for patients with sepsis in an ICU level of care environment,” Hofelich said
Dr. Craig Coopersmith, a critical care surgeon at Emory University and a member of the team running one of the two current sepsis studies, told NPR that if the treatment is proven effective, it can change the fortune of many future patients.
“This is something which, if proved to be true, would be a game-changer, almost a miracle cure, honestly,” Coopersmith told NPR.
Marik told NPR he believes his cocktail works because the vitamin C somehow neutralizes reactive oxygen, the damaging molecule generated in large amounts by the sepsis reaction.
Dr. Michael Donnino, who is leading a study at Harvard-affiliated Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center involving 13 hospitals, hopes the work will solidify the effectiveness of the treatment, NPR reported.
“Our goal is to complete this trial within a year from now,” Donnino said. “Having another trial out there I think is great.”
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