These results were published in Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases.
Rituxan is a drug that is used to treat RA, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, chronic lymphocytic leukemia, and other conditions. It targets a type of white blood cell known as a B-cell. B-cells are believed to contribute to the symptoms and joint damage of RA.
To evaluate the safety of long-term use of Rituxan for RA, researchers collected information about more than 3,000 patients who had been treated with a combination of Rituxan and methotrexate for up to 9.5 years. Information was also collected about roughly 800 patients who had been treated with a placebo plus methotrexate.
- The rate of serious side effects remained fairly stable over time among patients treated with Rituxan. Furthermore, the rate of serious infections was similar among patients treated with Rituxan plus methotrexate (3.94 events per 100 patients per year) and patients treated with placebo plus methotrexate (3.79 events per 100 patients per year).
- Rates of heart attack and stroke were similar to rates among RA patients in the general population.
These results suggest that frequency of side effects remains generally stable over time among patients who received prolonged treatment with Rituxan. Long-term follow-up did not identify new or increasing risks of treatment.
Reference: van Vollenhoven RF, Emery P, Bingham CO 3rd et al. Long-term safety of rituximab in rheumatoid arthritis: 9.5-year follow-up of the global clinical trial programme with a focus on adverse events of interest in RA patients. Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases. 2013 Sep 1;72(9):1496-502.