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Rituximab Effective in Treating Rheumatoid Arthritis

Used with methotrexate, it benefits patients resistant to other treatments including biologics

MONDAY, May 1 (HealthDay News) -- Rituximab used in combination with methotrexate is an effective way to treat rheumatoid arthritis patients resistant to other treatments including biologic agents, according to a report in the May issue of Arthritis & Rheumatism.

Paul Emery, M.D., of Chapel Allerton Hospital in Leeds, U.K., and colleagues studied 465 patients with rheumatoid arthritis who were resistant to disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs including biologics. Three groups received two infusions two weeks apart of 1,000 mg rituximab with either intravenous steroid, oral steroid or placebo. Three groups received two infusions two weeks apart of 500 mg rituximab with either intravenous steroid, oral steroid or placebo. Three groups received a placebo with either intravenous steroid, oral steroid or another placebo. All subjects also received methotrexate.

After 24 weeks, 55 percent of patients receiving 500 mg rituximab and 54 percent of patients receiving 1,000 mg rituximab met the American College of Rheumatology 20 percent improvement criteria compared with only 28 percent of patients receiving a placebo. Swelling and tenderness scores also improved, according to the study. Although glucocorticoids did not affect efficacy, intravenous steroids improved the tolerability of the first rituximab infusion.

"Both rituximab doses were effective and well tolerated when added to methotrexate in patients with active rheumatoid arthritis," Emery and colleagues conclude.

The study was funded by Genentech, Biogen Idec and Hoffmann-La Roche.

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