Updated Safety Information – September 2013
Dear Healthcare Provider Letter: October 2009
- Rituxan® (rituximab), in combination with methotrexate, is indicated for the treatment of adult patients with moderately- to severely- active rheumatoid arthritis (RA) who have had an inadequate response to one or more TNF antagonist therapies
- Limitations of Use: Rituxan is not recommended for use in patients with severe, active infections
BOXED WARNINGS and Additional Important Safety Information
Infusion Reactions: Rituxan administration can result in serious, including fatal, infusion 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 reactions.
Severe reactions typically occurred during the first infusion with time to onset of 30 to 120 minutes. Rituxan-induced infusion 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 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 (e.g., glucocorticoids, epinephrine, bronchodilators, or oxygen) for infusion reactions as needed. Depending on the severity of the infusion 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.
Mucocutaneous reactions, some with fatal outcome, can occur in patients treated with Rituxan. These reactions include paraneoplastic pemphigus, Stevens-Johnson syndrome, lichenoid dermatitis, vesiculobullous dermatitis, and toxic epidermal necrolysis. The onset of these reactions has varied from 1–13 weeks following 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 (i.e., 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, i.e., 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 in patients who develop HBV reactivation. Resumption of Rituxan in patients whose HBV reactivation resolves should be discussed with physicians with expertise in managing hepatitis B.
Progressive Multifocal Leukoencephalopathy (PML): PML, including fatal PML, can occur in patients receiving Rituxan.
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, some fatal, can occur within 12−24 hours after the first infusion of Rituxan in patients with 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.
Cardiovascular: 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.
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.
For RA patients, physicians should follow current immunization guidelines 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.
Laboratory Monitoring: In patients with RA, GPA or MPA, obtain complete blood counts (CBC) and platelet counts at 2- to 4-month intervals during Rituxan therapy. The duration of cytopenias caused by Rituxan can extend months beyond the treatment period.
Concomitant Use With Biologic Agents and DMARDs Other Than Methotrexate in RA, GPA, and MPA: Limited data are available on the safety of the use of biologic agents or DMARDs other than methotrexate 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 or MPA patients exhibiting peripheral B-cell depletion following treatment with Rituxan.
Use in Patients With RA Who Had No Prior Inadequate Response to Tumor Necrosis Factor (TNF) Antagonists: While the efficacy of Rituxan was supported in 4 controlled trials in patients with RA with prior inadequate responses to nonbiologic DMARDs and in a controlled trial in MTX-naive patients, a favorable risk-benefit relationship has not been established in these populations. The use of Rituxan in patients with RA who have not had prior inadequate response to one or more TNF antagonists is not recommended.
Among all exposed patients, adverse reactions reported in greater than 10% of patients include infusion related reactions, upper respiratory tract infection, nasopharyngitis, urinary tract infection, and bronchitis.
In placebo-controlled studies, adverse reactions reported in ≥5% of patients were hypertension (8% vs 5%), nausea (8% vs 5%), upper respiratory tract infection (7% vs 6%), arthralgia (6% vs 4%), pyrexia (5% vs 2%), and pruritus (5% vs 1%) of Rituxan-treated vs placebo, respectively.
Infusion Reactions: In the Rituxan RA pooled, placebo-controlled studies, incidence of any adverse event within 24 hours of an infusion was 32% vs 23% after the first infusion, and 11% vs 13% after the second infusion in the Rituxan-treated patients and placebo group, respectively. Incidence of acute infusion reactions was 27% vs 19% after the first infusion, 9% vs 11% after the second infusion in the Rituxan-treated patients and placebo group, respectively. Serious acute infusion reactions were experienced by <1% of patients in either treatment group. Acute infusion reactions required dose modification (stopping, slowing, or interruption of the infusion) in 10% and 2% of patients receiving Rituxan or placebo, respectively, after the first course.
Infections: In the pooled, placebo-controlled studies, incidence of any type of infection was 39% vs 34%, Rituxan-treated vs placebo. The most common infections were nasopharyngitis, upper respiratory tract infections, urinary tract infections, bronchitis, and sinusitis. The incidence of serious infections was 2% vs 1%, Rituxan-treated vs placebo group.
In the experience with Rituxan in 2578 RA patients, the rate of serious infection was 4.31 per 100 patient-years. The most common serious infections (≥0.5%) were pneumonia or lower respiratory tract infections, cellulitis and urinary tract infections. Fatal serious infections included pneumonia, sepsis, and colitis. Rates of serious infection remain stable in patients receiving subsequent courses.
In 185 Rituxan treated RA patients with active disease, subsequent treatment with a biologic DMARD, the majority of which were TNF antagonists, did not appear to increase the rate of serious infection.
Cardiac Events: In the pooled, placebo-controlled studies, incidence of serious cardiovascular reactions was 1.7% vs 1.3% Rituxan-treated vs placebo. Three cardiovascular deaths occurred during the double-blind period of the RA studies including all Rituxan regimens (3/769=0.4%) as compared to none in the placebo treatment group (0/389). In the experience with Rituxan in 2578 RA patients the rate of myocardial infarction (MI) was consistent with MI rates in the general RA population. Rituxan should be discontinued in the event of a serious or life-threatening cardiac event.
Hypophosphatemia and Hyperuricemia: In the pooled, placebo-controlled studies, newly-occurring hypophosphatemia (<2.0 mg/dL) was 12% vs 10%, Rituxan-treated vs placebo, respectively. Hypophosphatemia was more common in patients who received corticosteroids. Newly-occurring hyperuricemia (>10 mg/dL) was observed in 1.5% vs 0.3%, Rituxan-treated vs placebo, respectively.
Retreatment in Patients With RA: In the experience with Rituxan in RA patients, 2578 patients have been exposed to Rituxan and have received up to 10 courses of Rituxan in RA clinical trials, with 1890, 1043, and 425 patients having received at least two, three, and four courses, respectively. Most of the patients who received additional courses did so 24 weeks or more after the previous course and none were retreated sooner than 16 weeks. The rates and types of adverse reactions reported for subsequent courses of Rituxan were similar to rates and types seen for a single course of Rituxan.
In RA Study 2, where all patients initially received Rituxan, the safety profile of patients who were retreated with Rituxan was similar to those who were retreated with placebo.
Immunogenicity: A total of 273/2578 (11%) patients with RA tested positive for anti-human anti-chimeric antibody (HACA) at any time after receiving Rituxan. HACA positivity was not associated with increased infusion reactions or other adverse reactions. Upon further treatment, the proportions of patients with infusion reactions were similar between HACA-positive and HACA-negative patients, and most reactions were mild to moderate. Four HACA-positive patients had serious infusion reactions, and the temporal relationship between HACA positivity and infusion reaction was variable. The clinical relevance of HACA formation in Rituxan-treated patients is unclear.
Because these reactions are reported voluntarily from a population of uncertain size, it is not always possible to reliably estimate their frequency or establish a causal relationship to drug exposure.
- Hematologic: prolonged pancytopenia, marrow hypoplasia, Grade 3-4 prolonged or late-onset neutropenia, hyperviscosity syndrome in Waldenstrom's macroglobulinemia, prolonged hypogammaglobulinemia
- Cardiac: fatal cardiac failure
- Immune/Autoimmune Events: uveitis, optic neuritis, systemic vasculitis, pleuritis, lupus-like syndrome, serum sickness, polyarticular arthritis, and vasculitis with rash
- Infection: viral infections, including progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML), increase in fatal infections in HIV-associated lymphoma, and a reported increased incidence of Grade 3 and 4 infections
- Neoplasia: disease progression of Kaposi’s sarcoma
- Skin: severe mucocutaneous reactions
- Gastrointestinal: bowel obstruction and perforation
- Pulmonary: fatal bronchiolitis obliterans and fatal interstitial lung disease
- Nervous system: posterior reversible encephalopathy syndrome (PRES)/ reversible posterior leukoencephalopathy syndrome (RPLS)
Formal drug interaction studies have not been performed with Rituxan. In clinical trials of patients with RA, concomitant administration of methotrexate or cyclophosphamide did not alter the pharmacokinetics of Rituxan.
PregnancyCategory C: There are no adequate and well-controlled studies of Rituxan in pregnant women. Postmarketing data indicate that B-cell lymphocytopenia generally lasting less than six months can occur in infants exposed to Rituxan in utero. Rituxan was detected postnatally in the serum of infants exposed in utero.
You may report side effects to the FDA at (800) FDA-1088 or www.fda.gov/medwatch. You may also report side effects to Genentech at (888) 835-2555.
For additional safety information, please see the Rituxan full prescribing information, including BOXED WARNINGS.