• Rituxan® (rituximab) is indicated for the treatment of adult patients with moderate to severe pemphigus vulgaris (PV)

BOXED WARNINGS and Additional Important Safety Information


Infusion-Related Reactions: Rituxan administration can result in serious, including fatal, infusion-related reactions. Deaths within 24 hours of Rituxan infusion have occurred. Approximately 80% of fatal infusion reactions occurred in association with the first infusion. Monitor patients closely. Discontinue Rituxan infusion for severe reactions and provide medical treatment for Grade 3 or 4 infusion-related reactions.

Severe reactions typically occurred during the first infusion with time to onset of 30 to 120 minutes. Rituxan-induced infusion-related reactions and sequelae include urticaria, hypotension, angioedema, hypoxia, bronchospasm, pulmonary infiltrates, acute respiratory distress syndrome, myocardial infarction, ventricular fibrillation, cardiogenic shock, anaphylactoid events, or death.

Premedicate patients with an antihistamine and acetaminophen prior to dosing. For RA, GPA & MPA, and PV patients, methylprednisolone 100 mg intravenously or its equivalent is recommended 30 minutes prior to each infusion. For GPA and MPA patients, glucocorticoids are given in combination with Rituxan. Institute medical management (eg, glucocorticoids, epinephrine, bronchodilators, or oxygen) for infusion-related reactions as needed. Depending on the severity of the infusion-related reaction and the required interventions, temporarily or permanently discontinue Rituxan. Resume infusion at a minimum of 50% reduction in the rate after symptoms have resolved. Closely monitor the following patients: those with pre-existing cardiac or pulmonary conditions, those who experienced prior cardiopulmonary adverse reactions, and those with high numbers of circulating malignant cells (≥25,000/mm3).

Severe Mucocutaneous Reactions: Severe, including fatal, mucocutaneous reactions can occur in patients receiving Rituxan. These reactions include paraneoplastic pemphigus, Stevens-Johnson syndrome, lichenoid dermatitis, vesiculobullous dermatitis, and toxic epidermal necrolysis. The onset of these reactions has been variable and includes reports with onset on the first day of Rituxan exposure. Discontinue Rituxan in patients who experience a severe mucocutaneous reaction. The safety of readministration of Rituxan to patients with severe mucocutaneous reactions has not been determined.

Hepatitis B Virus (HBV) Reactivation: HBV reactivation can occur in patients treated with Rituxan, in some cases resulting in fulminant hepatitis, hepatic failure, and death. Screen all patients for HBV infection before treatment initiation, and monitor patients during and after treatment with Rituxan. Discontinue Rituxan and concomitant medications in the event of HBV reactivation.

Hepatitis B virus (HBV) reactivation, in some cases resulting in fulminant hepatitis, hepatic failure, and death, can occur in patients treated with drugs classified as CD20-directed cytolytic antibodies, including Rituxan. Cases have been reported in patients who are hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) positive and also in patients who are HBsAg negative but are hepatitis B core antibody (anti-HBc) positive. Reactivation also has occurred in patients who appear to have resolved hepatitis B infection (ie, HBsAg negative, anti-HBc positive and hepatitis B surface antibody [anti-HBs] positive).

HBV reactivation is defined as an abrupt increase in HBV replication manifesting as a rapid increase in serum HBV DNA level or detection of HBsAg in a person who was previously HBsAg negative and anti-HBc positive. Reactivation of HBV replication is often followed by hepatitis, ie, increase in transaminase levels. In severe cases, increase in bilirubin levels, liver failure, and death can occur.

Screen all patients for HBV infection by measuring HBsAg and anti-HBc before initiating treatment with Rituxan. For patients who show evidence of prior hepatitis B infection (HBsAg positive [regardless of antibody status] or HBsAg negative but anti-HBc positive), consult with physicians with expertise in managing hepatitis B regarding monitoring and consideration for HBV antiviral therapy before and/or during Rituxan treatment.

Monitor patients with evidence of current or prior HBV infection for clinical and laboratory signs of hepatitis or HBV reactivation during and for several months following Rituxan therapy. HBV reactivation has been reported up to 24 months following completion of Rituxan therapy.

In patients who develop reactivation of HBV while on Rituxan, immediately discontinue Rituxan and any concomitant chemotherapy and institute appropriate treatment. Insufficient data exist regarding the safety of resuming Rituxan treatment in patients who develop HBV reactivation. Resumption of Rituxan treatment in patients whose HBV reactivation resolves should be discussed with physicians with expertise in managing HBV.

Progressive Multifocal Leukoencephalopathy (PML): JC virus infection resulting in PML and death can occur in Rituxan-treated patients with hematologic malignancies or with autoimmune diseases. The majority of patients with hematologic malignancies diagnosed with PML have received Rituxan in combination with chemotherapy or as part of a hematopoietic stem cell transplant. The patients with autoimmune diseases had prior or concurrent immunosuppressive therapy. Most cases of PML were diagnosed within 12 months of their last infusion of Rituxan.

Consider the diagnosis of PML in any patient presenting with new-onset neurologic manifestations. Evaluation of PML includes, but is not limited to, consultation with a neurologist, brain MRI, and lumbar puncture. Discontinue Rituxan and consider discontinuation or reduction of any concomitant chemotherapy or immunosuppressive therapy in patients who develop PML.

Warnings and Precautions

Tumor Lysis Syndrome (TLS): Acute renal failure, hyperkalemia, hypocalcemia, hyperuricemia, or hyperphosphatemia from tumor lysis, sometimes fatal, can occur within 12-24 hours after the first infusion of Rituxan in patients with Non–Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (NHL). Administer aggressive intravenous hydration and anti-hyperuricemic therapy in patients at high risk for TLS. Correct electrolyte abnormalities, monitor renal function and fluid balance, and administer supportive care, including dialysis as indicated. 

Infections: Serious, including fatal, bacterial, fungal, and new or reactivated viral infections can occur during and following the completion of Rituxan-based therapy. Infections have been reported in some patients with prolonged hypogammaglobulinemia (defined as hypogammaglobulinemia >11 months after Rituxan exposure). New or reactivated viral infections included cytomegalovirus, herpes simplex virus, parvovirus B19, varicella zoster virus, West Nile virus, and hepatitis B and C. Discontinue Rituxan for serious infections and institute appropriate anti-infective therapy. Rituxan is not recommended for use in patients with severe, active infections.

Cardiovascular Adverse Reactions: Cardiac adverse reactions, including ventricular fibrillation, myocardial infarction, and cardiogenic shock may occur in patients receiving Rituxan. Discontinue infusions for serious or life-threatening cardiac arrhythmias. Perform cardiac monitoring during and after all infusions of Rituxan for patients who develop clinically significant arrhythmias or who have a history of arrhythmia or angina.

Renal Toxicity: Severe, including fatal, renal toxicity can occur after Rituxan administration in patients with Non–Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (NHL). Renal toxicity has occurred in patients who experience tumor lysis syndrome and in patients with NHL administered concomitant cisplatin therapy during clinical trials. The combination of cisplatin and Rituxan is not an approved treatment regimen. Monitor closely for signs of renal failure and discontinue Rituxan in patients with a rising serum creatinine or oliguria.

Bowel Obstruction and Perforation: Abdominal pain, bowel obstruction and perforation, in some cases leading to death, can occur in patients receiving Rituxan in combination with chemotherapy. Evaluate if symptoms of obstruction such as abdominal pain or repeated vomiting occur.

Immunization: The safety of immunization with live viral vaccines following Rituxan therapy has not been studied, and vaccination with live virus vaccines is not recommended before or during treatment.

For patients treated with Rituxan, physicians should review the patient’s vaccination status and patients should, if possible, be brought up to date with all immunizations in agreement with current immunization guidelines prior to initiating Rituxan and administer non-live vaccines at least 4 weeks prior to a course of Rituxan.

The effect of Rituxan on immune responses was assessed in a randomized, controlled study in patients with RA treated with Rituxan and methotrexate (MTX) compared to patients treated with MTX alone.

A response to pneumococcal vaccination (a T-cell independent antigen) as measured by an increase in antibody titers to at least 6 of 12 serotypes was lower in patients treated with Rituxan plus MTX as compared to patients treated with MTX alone (19% vs 61%). A lower proportion of patients in the Rituxan plus MTX group developed detectable levels of anti-keyhole limpet hemocyanin antibodies (a novel protein antigen) after vaccination compared to patients on MTX alone (47% vs 93%).

A positive response to tetanus toxoid vaccine (a T-cell dependent antigen with existing immunity) was similar in patients treated with Rituxan plus MTX compared to patients on MTX alone (39% vs 42%). The proportion of patients maintaining a positive Candida skin test (to evaluate delayed type hypersensitivity) was also similar (77% of patients on Rituxan plus MTX vs 70% of patients on MTX alone).

Most patients in the Rituxan-treated group had B-cell counts below the lower limit of normal at the time of immunization. The clinical implications of these findings are not known.

Embryo-Fetal Toxicity: Based on human data, Rituxan can cause fetal harm due to B-cell lymphocytopenia in infants exposed to rituximab in-utero. Advise pregnant women of the risk to a fetus. Females of childbearing potential should use effective contraception while receiving Rituxan and for 12 months following the last dose of Rituxan.

Concomitant Use with Biologic Agents and DMARDs Other Than MTX: Limited data are available on the safety of the use of biologic agents or DMARDs other than MTX in RA patients exhibiting peripheral B-cell depletion following treatment with Rituxan. Observe patients closely for signs of infection if biologic agents and/or DMARDs are used concomitantly. Use of concomitant immunosuppressants other than corticosteroids has not been studied in GPA, MPA, or PV patients exhibiting peripheral B-cell depletion following treatment with Rituxan.

Adverse Reactions

Clinical Trials Experience in Pemphigus Vulgaris (PV)

Adverse reactions reported in ≥10% of patients treated with the Ritux 3 regimen* vs patients treated with prednisone monotherapy were infusion-related reactions (58% vs N/A), depression (18% vs 11%), herpes simplex (13% vs 3%), and alopecia (13% vs 0%).

Infusion-Related Reactions
Infusion-related reactions were the most commonly reported adverse drug reactions (58%). Infusion-related reactions included symptoms collected on the next scheduled visit after each infusion, and adverse events occurring on the day of or one day after the infusion. The most common infusion-related reactions included headaches, chills, high blood pressure, nausea, asthenia and pain. All infusion-related reactions were mild to moderate (Grade 1 or 2) except one Grade 3 serious infusion-related reaction (arthralgia) associated with the Month 12 maintenance infusion. The proportion of patients experiencing an infusion-related reaction was 29%, 40%, 13%, and 10% following the first, second, third, and fourth infusions, respectively. No patients were withdrawn from treatment due to infusion-related reactions.

Fourteen patients (37%) treated with the Ritux 3 regimen experienced treatment-related infections compared to 15 patients (42%) treated with prednisone monotherapy. The most common infections in patients treated with the Ritux 3 regimen were herpes simplex, herpes zoster, bronchitis, urinary tract infection, fungal infection, and conjunctivitis. Three patients (8%) treated with the Ritux 3 regimen experienced a total of 5 serious infections (Pneumocystis jirovecii pneumonia, infective thrombosis, intervertebral discitis, lung infection, Staphylococcal sepsis) and 1 patient (3%) treated with prednisone monotherapy experienced 1 serious infection (Pneumocystis jirovecii pneumonia).

Using a new ELISA assay, a total of 19/34 (56%) patients with PV treated with the Ritux 3 regimen tested positive for anti-rituximab antibodies by 18 months. The clinical relevance of anti-rituximab antibody formation in Rituxan treated PV patients is unclear.

You may report side effects to the FDA at (800) FDA-1088 or You may also report side effects to Genentech at (888) 835-2555.

For additional Important Safety Information, please see the Rituxan full Prescribing Information, including BOXED WARNINGS.

*Ritux 3 regimen = Roche-manufactured, EU-approved rituximab product
EU = European Union

Attention Healthcare Provider: Provide Medication Guide to patient prior to Rituxan infusion.