Rituximab is an injectable drug that can suppress certain immune cells. The immune system, which consists of many immune cells, is affected in a group of disorders known as autoimmune disorders, in which this system targets own cells.
Rituximab has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of many autoimmune disorders, but not multiple sclerosis (MS). However, over the years, neurologists have successfully used it in MS.
A similar drug to rituximab, known as ocrelizumab, has shown positive results in people with relapsing-remitting MS and primary-progressive MS. Rituximab has a more reasonable price than ocrelizumab.
In this study from Sweden, investigators asked whether rituximab has been safe and effective in people with MS who have been taking this drug. They retrospectively included a total of 822 people with different types of MS (relapsing remitting, primary progressive and secondary progressive).
They observed that 7.8% of people who were receiving rituximab had side effects related to the infusion site, most of which were mild. A total of 72 people with MS reported moderate to severe adverse effects, that were mostly the result of infections. Four people died during the treatment, however, none seems to be related to rituximab.
Rituximab reduced the disease activity on MRI, and reduced the rate of disability progression in people with progressive MS. Authors concluded that this study provides evidence for the safety and efficacy of rituximab. The study is retrospective with many limitations, which can only warrant further investigation of rituximab in future clinical trials.
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