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Last Updated: Wednesday, 22 September, 2004, 00:11 GMT 01:11 UK
Use intensive care drug, NHS told
Intensive care
Severe sepsis accounts for one in four intensive care admissions
Thousands of intensive care patients are set to benefit from a drug which can help prevent organ failure.

The National Institute of Clinical Excellence is recommending drotecogin alfa (activated) to stop severe sepsis.

The drug is not a cure for sepsis, a catastrophic immune system reaction to infection which produces organ failure, but can help reduce deaths by 6%.

Sepsis affects 21,000 people a year and accounts for 27% of intensive care admissions.

Despite advances in critical care, severe sepsis, which commonly arises through bacterial infection, still kills up to a half of people who contract it.

Even those who survive can suffer permanent damage to organs and disability.

'Major step'

Andrea Sutcliffe, Nice's planning and resources director, said: "Currently, as many as half of the patients who develop severe sepsis die.

"Today's guidance represents a major step forward for the treatment of patients with severe sepsis that has resulted in multiple organ failure."

Dr Saxon Ridley, the president of the Intensive Care Society, agreed it would make a huge difference.

"A risk reduction of 6% may not sound much but is in fact a huge amount.

"What is more, the drug seems to be more effective on sicker patients and in the UK we tend to have sicker patients.

"It is a hugely beneficial drug and makes a great deal of difference to patients."

The drug, which is also called xigris, has been licensed in the UK for a number of years but this is the first time it has been recommended by Nice, the NHS independent body which offers guidance on treatments.

The drug is administered through intravenous infusion on a weight basis.

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