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Rituximab

Generic Name: rituximab (ri TUX i mab)
Brand Name: Rituxan

Medically reviewed by Drugs.com on Sep 4, 2018 – Written by Cerner Multum

What is rituximab?

See also: Orencia

Rituximab is a cancer medicine that interferes with the growth and spread of cancer cells in the body.

Rituximab is used alone or in combination with other medicines to treat the following conditions in adults:

Rituximab may also be used for purposes not listed in this medication guide.

Important Information

Rituximab may cause a serious brain infection that can lead to disability or death. Call your doctor right away if you have problems with speech, thought, vision, or muscle movement. These symptoms may start gradually and get worse quickly.

Tell your doctor if you have ever had hepatitis B. Rituximab can cause this condition to come back or get worse.

Severe skin problems can also occur during treatment with rituximab. Call your doctor if you have painful skin or mouth sores, or a severe skin rash with blistering, peeling, or pus.

Some side effects may occur during the injection or within 24 hours afterward. Tell your caregiver right away if you feel dizzy, weak, light-headed, short of breath, or if you have chest pain, wheezing, sudden cough, or pounding heartbeats or fluttering in your chest.

Before taking this medicine

Rituximab may cause a serious brain infection that can lead to disability or death. This infection may be more likely if have used an immunosuppressant drug in the past, or if you have received rituximab with a stem cell transplant.

You should not be treated with rituximab if you are allergic to it.

Tell your doctor if you have ever had:

  • liver disease or hepatitis (or if you are a carrier of hepatitis B);

  • kidney disease;

  • lung disease or a breathing disorder;

  • a weak immune system (caused by disease or by using certain medicines);

  • an active infection, including herpes, shingles, cytomegalovirus, chickenpox, parvovirus, West Nile virus, or hepatitis B or C;

  • heart disease, angina (chest pain), or heart rhythm disorder; or

  • if you have used rituximab in the past.

Do not use rituximab if you are pregnant. It could harm the unborn baby. Use effective birth control to prevent pregnancy while you are using rituximab and for at least 12 months after your last dose.

It is not safe to breast-feed a baby while you are using this medicine. Also do not breast-feed for at least 6 months after your last dose.

How is rituximab given?

Your doctor will perform blood tests to make sure you do not have conditions that would prevent you from safely using rituximab.

Rituximab is given as an infusion into a vein. A healthcare provider will give you this injection.

Rituximab is not given daily. Your schedule will depend on the condition being treated. Follow your doctor's dosing instructions very carefully.

Before each injection, you may be given other medications to prevent certain side effects of rituximab.

You will need frequent medical tests.

If you've ever had hepatitis B, using rituximab can cause this virus to become active or get worse. You may need frequent liver function tests while using this medicine and for several months after you stop.

If you need surgery, tell the surgeon ahead of time that you are using rituximab.

What happens if I miss a dose?

Call your doctor if you miss an appointment for your rituximab injection.

What happens if I overdose?

Since this medication is given by a healthcare professional in a medical setting, an overdose is unlikely to occur.

What should I avoid while receiving rituximab?

Do not receive a "live" vaccine while using rituximab, and avoid coming into contact with anyone who has recently received a live vaccine. There is a chance that the virus could be passed on to you. Live vaccines include measles, mumps, rubella (MMR), rotavirus, typhoid, yellow fever, varicella (chickenpox), zoster (shingles), and nasal flu (influenza) vaccine.

Rituximab side effects

Get emergency medical help if you have signs of an allergic reaction: hives; chest tightness, trouble breathing; swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

Some side effects may occur during the injection (or within 24 hours afterward). Tell your caregiver right away if you feel itchy, dizzy, weak, light-headed, short of breath, or if you have chest pain, wheezing, sudden cough, or pounding heartbeats or fluttering in your chest.

Rituximab may cause a serious brain infection that can lead to disability or death. Call your doctor right away if you have any of the following symptoms (which may start gradually and get worse quickly):

  • confusion, memory problems, or other changes in your mental state;

  • weakness on one side of your body;

  • vision changes; or

  • problems with speech or walking.

Call your doctor at once if you have any of these other side effects, even if they occur several months after you receive rituximab, or after your treatment ends.

  • fever, chills, cold or flu symptoms, cough, sore throat, headache, earache;

  • pain or burning when you urinate;

  • painful skin or mouth sores, or a severe skin rash with blistering, peeling, or pus;

  • redness, warmth, or swelling of the skin;

  • severe stomach pain, vomiting, constipation, bloody or tarry stools;

  • chest pain, irregular heartbeats;

  • dark urine, or jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes);

  • low red blood cells (anemia)--pale skin, unusual tiredness, feeling light-headed or short of breath, cold hands and feet; or

  • signs of tumor cell breakdown--confusion, weakness, muscle cramps, nausea, vomiting, fast or slow heart rate, decreased urination, tingling in your hands and feet or around your mouth.

Common side effects may include:

  • fever, chills, body aches, anemia, infections;

  • nausea, diarrhea;

  • swelling in your hands or feet;

  • feeling tired;

  • joint pain, muscle spasms; or

  • cold symptoms such as stuffy nose, sneezing, sore throat.

This is not a complete list of side effects and others may occur. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.

What other drugs will affect rituximab?

Tell your doctor about all your other medicines, especially:

This list is not complete. Other drugs may affect rituximab, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal products. Not all possible drug interactions are listed here.

Further information

Remember, keep this and all other medicines out of the reach of children, never share your medicines with others, and use this medication only for the indication prescribed.

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

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