Background Envenomation by North American scorpions of genus Centruroides is associated with a syndrome of neurotoxicity and respiratory compromise that disproportionately affects rural children. Severe scorpion envenomation is rare, which makes treatment difficult to study using conventional controlled clinical trials; and small-scale placebo-controlled trials conducted in tertiary centers are of limited generalizability to the community setting. Open label studies, although safer and easier to conduct, are of limited value unless a suitable comparator group is used. Historical controls may be appropriate when concurrent controls are not feasible or ethical. Methods A successful placebo-controlled, double-blind clinical trial design was adapted for community use in Arizona and Mexico. A comparator population was established by replacement of the placebo group with a retrospective cohort and preservation of criteria for inclusion, exclusion, dosing and endpoint assessment. Study endpoints were selected to demonstrate the clearest possible difference between treatment groups, while minimizing confounders. Results were summarized and endpoints were directly compared between groups and with the prior double-blind study. Results The clinical syndrome remained evident in 95.9% of the historical cohort (93/97) 4 h after admission, and their cumulative dose of midazolam given between baseline and discharge was 5.29 ± 8.68 mg/kg (range 0-62.8). Among 78 prospectively treated cases, none received midazolam and only 2 (2.8%) remained symptomatic at 4 h. Venom was detectable in the plasma of all antivenom recipients tested, and it dropped by 90% of baseline in 95% of cases studied. Conclusions The results of this pragmatic study strongly support the findings of the double-blind, placebo controlled clinical trial of the same antivenom. Recipients of antivenom at rural sites improved at a rate similar to that in the intensive care (ICU) setting, and historical cases resolved at a rate similar to that for untreated ICU controls. Use of antivenom in the primary care setting appeared to be safe and effective and to eliminate the need for intensive care or for transport to a tertiary care center, in all subjects prospectively studied.
- Clinical trial
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