Doxapram Therapy in Preterm Infants (DOXA Trial)

  • End date
    May 1, 2030
  • participants needed
  • sponsor
    Erasmus Medical Center
Updated on 25 January 2021
continuous positive airway pressure
mechanical ventilation
pulmonary disease
assisted ventilation


Preterm infants often suffer from apnea of prematurity (AOP; a cessation of breathing) due to immaturity of the respiratory system. AOP can lead to oxygen shortage and a low heart rate which might harm the development of the newborn, especially the central nervous system. In order to prevent oxygen shortage, infants are treated with non-invasive respiratory support and caffeine. Despite these treatments, many preterm newborns still suffer from AOP and need invasive mechanical ventilation. Although this will result in complete resolution of AOP, invasive mechanical ventilation has the disadvantage of being a major risk of chronic lung disease and impaired neurodevelopmental outcome. Restrictive invasive ventilation is therefore advocated nowadays in preterm infants. Doxapram is a respiratory stimulant that has been administered off-label to treat AOP. Doxapram, as add-on treatment, seems to be effective in treating AOP and to prevent invasive mechanical ventilation. It is unclear if a preterm infant benefit from doxapram treatment on the longer term. This study compares doxapram to placebo and hypothesizes that doxapram will protect preterm infants from both invasive ventilation (and related lung disease) and AOP related oxygen shortage (and related impaired brain development).


The main objective of the trial is to investigate if doxapram is safe and effective in reducing the composite outcome of death and neurodevelopmental impairment/severe disability at 2 years corrected age as compared to placebo. This multicenter double blinded randomized placebo-controlled superiority trial will be conducted in multiple neonatal intensive care units in the Netherlands and Belgium, including 8 years follow-up. After written informed-consent the patients will be randomized into the doxapram treatment group or the placebo treatment group. Randomization will be stratified based on center and gestational age < or >= 26 weeks.

The participating departments include Dutch and Belgian Neonatal Intensive care units. The units include both academic and non-academic level III and IV units that are specialized in the care for critically ill and preterm born infants. Postnatal ages of patients at doxapram start vary from directly after birth up to months for the most-preterm born infants.

Blinded continuous doxapram or placebo (glucose 5%) will be infused as long as needed. Therapy is down titrated or stopped based on the patients' condition. If endotracheal intubation is needed study drug is stopped. After extubation study drug may be restarted. Switch to gastro-enteral administration is allowed if no iv-access is needed for other reasons. Next to study drug infusion, there will be no other study-related interventions. All outcome variables are already collected as standard of care. In a subset of patients doxapram plasma levels will be determined to validate the doxapram pharmacokinetic (PK) model. Blood will only be collected during routine blood sampling, with a maximum amount of 0.6 ml. Economic and cost-effectiveness evaluation will be performed. The national protocol for preterm birth advices follow-up at 2, 5.5 and 8 years respectively, as in the current study. Additional questionnaires will be used to collect data on the quality of life of patients and their parents.

Condition Pulmonary insufficiency, Respiratory Failure, Respiratory Failure, Apnea of Prematurity, respiratory insufficiency, pulmonary regurgitation, pulmonic valve insufficiency, respiratory impairment
Treatment Placebo, Doxapram, Doxapram
Clinical Study IdentifierNCT04430790
SponsorErasmus Medical Center
Last Modified on25 January 2021


Yes No Not Sure

Inclusion Criteria

Admitted to the neonatal intensvie care unit (NICU) of one of the participating centres
Written informed consent of both parents or legal representatives
Gestational age at birth < 29 weeks
Caffeine therapy, adequately dosed (see also under co-medication)
Optimal Non-invasively supported with nasal Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) or ventilation ((S)NIPPV, NIV-NAVA, BIPAP/Duopap, SIPAP)
Apnea that require a medical intervention as judged by the attending physician

Exclusion Criteria

Previous use of open label doxapram
Use of theophylline (to replace doxapram)
Chromosomal defects (e.g. trisomy 13, 18, or 21)
Major congenital malformations that: compromise lung function (e.g. surfactant protein deficiencies, congenital diaphragmatic hernia); result in chronic ventilation (e.g. Pierre Robin sequence); increase the risk of death or adverse neurodevelopmental outcome (congenital cerebral malformations, chromosomal abnormalities)
Palliative care or treatment limitations because of high risk of impaired outcome
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