"Oct. 24, 2012 -- It is not a desired discussion for the doctor, and certainly not for the patient. But an overwhelming majority of people with advanced cancer are under the impression that the chemotherapy they are receiving will cure their disea"...
Rituxan can cause severe, including fatal, infusion reactions. Severe reactions typically occurred during the first infusion with time to onset of 30-120 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. 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 50% reduction in 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 ). [See BOXED WARNING and ADVERSE REACTIONS].
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. A high number of circulating malignant cells ( ≥ 25,000/mm³ ) or high tumor burden, confers a greater risk of TLS.
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. [See BOXED WARNING].
Severe Mucocutaneous Reactions
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. [See BOXED WARNING, ADVERSE REACTIONS].
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 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. [See BOXED WARNING, ADVERSE REACTIONS].
Hepatitis B Virus (HBV) Reactivation
Hepatitis B virus (HBV) reactivation with fulminant hepatitis, hepatic failure, and death can occur in patients treated with Rituxan. The median time to the diagnosis of hepatitis among patients with hematologic malignancies was approximately 4 months after the initiation of Rituxan and approximately one month after the last dose.
Screen patients at high risk of HBV infection before initiation of Rituxan. Closely monitor carriers of hepatitis B for clinical and laboratory signs of active HBV infection for several months following Rituxan therapy. Discontinue Rituxan and any concomitant chemotherapy in patients who develop viral hepatitis, and institute appropriate treatment including antiviral therapy. Insufficient data exist regarding the safety of resuming Rituxan in patients who develop hepatitis subsequent to HBV reactivation. [See ADVERSE REACTIONS].
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 rituximab 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. [See ADVERSE REACTIONS].
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. [See ADVERSE REACTIONS].
Severe, including fatal, renal toxicity can occur after Rituxan administration in patients with 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. In postmarketing reports, the mean time to documented gastrointestinal perforation was 6 (range 1-77) days in patients with NHL. Perform a thorough diagnostic evaluation and institute appropriate treatment for complaints of abdominal pain. [See ADVERSE REACTIONS].
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.
In patients with lymphoid malignancies, during treatment with Rituxan monotherapy, obtain complete blood counts (CBC) and platelet counts prior to each Rituxan course. During treatment with Rituxan and chemotherapy, obtain CBC and platelet counts at weekly to monthly intervals and more frequently in patients who develop cytopenias [see ADVERSE REACTIONS]. In patients with RA, GPA or MPA, obtain CBC and platelet counts at two to four 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 rituximab. 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 RA Patients Who Have Not Had Prior Inadequate Response to Tumor Necrosis Factor (TNF) Antagonists
While the efficacy of Rituxan was supported in four controlled trials in patients with RA with prior inadequate responses to non-biologic DMARDs, and in a controlled trial in MTX-na´ve 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 [see Clinical Studies].
Retreatment in Patients with Granulomatosis with Polyangiitis (GPA) (Wegener's Granulomatosis) and Microscopic Polyangiitis (MPA)
Limited data are available on the safety and efficacy of subsequent courses of Rituxan in patients with GPA and MPA. The safety and efficacy of retreatment with Rituxan have not been established [see DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION, ADVERSE REACTIONS, and Clinical Studies].
Patient Counseling Information
Patients should be provided the Rituxan Medication Guide and provided an opportunity to read prior to each treatment session. It is important that the patient's overall health be assessed at each visit and the risks of Rituxan therapy and any questions resulting from the patient's reading of the Medication Guide be discussed. See FDA approved patient labeling (Medication Guide).
Rituxan is detectable in serum for up to six months following completion of therapy. Individuals of childbearing potential should use effective contraception during treatment and for 12 months after Rituxan therapy.
Carcinogenesis, Mutagenesis, Impairment of Fertility
No long-term animal studies have been performed to establish the carcinogenic or mutagenic potential of Rituxan or to determine potential effects on fertility in males or females.
Use In Specific Populations
Category C: There are no adequate and well-controlled studies of rituximab in pregnant women. Postmarketing data indicate that B-cell lymphocytopenia generally lasting less than six months can occur in infants exposed to rituximab in-utero. Rituximab was detected postnatally in the serum of infants exposed in-utero.
Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, moderate-severe rheumatoid arthritis, Granulomatosis with Polyangiitis (GPA) (Wegener's Granulomatosis) and Microscopic Polyangiitis are serious conditions that require treatment. Rituximab should be used during pregnancy only if the potential benefit to the mother justifies the potential risk to the fetus. Reproduction studies in cynomolgus monkeys at maternal exposures similar to human therapeutic exposures showed no evidence of teratogenic effects. However, B-cell lymphoid tissue was reduced in the offspring of treated dams. The B-cell counts returned to normal levels, and immunologic function was restored within 6 months of birth [see Non-Clinical Toxicology].
It is not known whether Rituxan is secreted into human milk. However, Rituxan is secreted in the milk of lactating cynomolgus monkeys, and IgG is excreted in human milk. Published data suggest that antibodies in breast milk do not enter the neonatal and infant circulations in substantial amounts. The unknown risks to the infant from oral ingestion of Rituxan should be weighed against the known benefits of breastfeeding.
FDA has not required pediatric studies in polyarticular juvenile idiopathic arthritis (PJIA) patients ages 0 to 16 due to concerns regarding the potential for prolonged immunosuppression as a result of B-cell depletion in the developing juvenile immune system. Hypogammaglobulinemia has been observed in pediatric patients treated with Rituxan. The safety and effectiveness of Rituxan in pediatric patients have not been established.
Diffuse Large B-Cell NHL
Among patients with DLBCL evaluated in three randomized, active-controlled trials, 927 patients received Rituxan in combination with chemotherapy. Of these, 396 (43%) were age 65 or greater and 123 (13%) were age 75 or greater. No overall differences in effectiveness were observed between these patients and younger patients. Cardiac adverse reactions, mostly supraventricular arrhythmias, occurred more frequently among elderly patients. Serious pulmonary adverse reactions were also more common among the elderly, including pneumonia and pneumonitis.
Low-Grade or Follicular Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma
Patients with previously untreated follicular NHL evaluated in Study 5 were randomized to Rituxan as single-agent maintenance therapy (n = 505) or observation (n = 513) after achieving a response to Rituxan in combination with chemotherapy. Of these, 123 (24%) patients in the Rituxan arm were age 65 or older. No overall differences in safety or effectiveness were observed between these patients and younger patients. Other clinical studies of Rituxan in low-grade or follicular, CD20-positive, B-cell NHL did not include sufficient numbers of patients aged 65 and over to determine whether they respond differently from younger subjects.
Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia
Among patients with CLL evaluated in two randomized active-controlled trials, 243 of 676 Rituxan-treated patients (36%) were 65 years of age or older; of these, 100 Rituxan-treated patients (15%) were 70 years of age or older.
In exploratory analyses defined by age, there was no observed benefit from the addition of Rituxan to fludarabine and cyclophosphamide among patients 70 years of age or older in Study 11 or in Study 12; there was also no observed benefit from the addition of Rituxan to fludarabine and cyclophosphamide among patients 65 years of age or older in Study 12 [see Clinical Studies]. Patients 70 years or older received lower dose intensity of fludarabine and cyclophosphamide compared to younger patients, regardless of the addition of Rituxan. In Study 11, the dose intensity of Rituxan was similar in older and younger patients, however in Study 12 older patients received a lower dose intensity of Rituxan.
The incidence of Grade 3 and 4 adverse reactions was higher among patients receiving R-FC who were 70 years or older compared to younger patients for neutropenia [44% vs. 31% (Study 11); 56% vs. 39% (Study 12)], febrile neutropenia [16% vs. 6% (Study 10)], anemia [5% vs. 2% (Study 11); 21% vs. 10% (Study 12)], thrombocytopenia [19% vs. 8% (Study 12)], pancytopenia [7% vs. 2% (Study 11); 7% vs. 2% (Study 12)] and infections [30% vs. 14% (Study 12)].
Among the 2578 patients in global RA studies completed to date, 12% were 65-75 years old and 2% were 75 years old and older. The incidences of adverse reactions were similar between older and younger patients. The rates of serious adverse reactions, including serious infections, malignancies, and cardiovascular events were higher in older patients.
Granulomatosis with Polyangiitis (GPA) (Wegener's Granulomatosis) and Microscopic Polyangiitis
Of the 99 Rituxan-treated GPA and MPA patients, 36 (36%) were 65 years old and over, while 8 (8%) were 75 years and over. No overall differences in efficacy were observed between patients that were 65 years old and over and younger patients. The overall incidence and rate of all serious adverse events was higher in patients 65 years old and over. The clinical study did not include sufficient numbers of patients aged 65 and over to determine whether they respond differently from younger subjects.
Last reviewed on RxList: 11/1/2012
This monograph has been modified to include the generic and brand name in many instances.
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