Generic Name: rituximab (ri TUX i mab)
Brand Names: Rituxan
What is Rituxan?
Rituxan (rituximab) is a cancer medicine that interferes with the growth and spread of cancer cells in the body.
Rituxan is also used in combination with another drug called methotrexate to treat symptoms of adult rheumatoid arthritis.
Rituxan is also used in combination with steroid medicines to treat certain rare disorders that cause inflammation of blood vessels and other tissues in the body.
Rituxan may cause a serious brain infection that can lead to disability or death. Call your doctor right away if you have changes in your mental state, decreased vision, weakness, or problems with speech or walking. These symptoms may start gradually and get worse quickly.
Tell your doctor if you have ever had hepatitis B. Rituxan can cause this condition to come back or get worse.
Severe skin problems can also occur during treatment with Rituxan. 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
Rituxan may cause a serious brain infection called progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML). This infection may be more likely if have used an immunosuppressant drug in the past, or if you have received Rituxan with a stem cell transplant.
You should not be treated with Rituxan if you are allergic to rituximab.
To make sure Rituxan is safe for you, tell your doctor if you have:
liver disease or hepatitis (or if you are a carrier of hepatitis B);
lung disease or a breathing disorder;
a weak immune system (caused by disease or by using certain medicines);
a recent or active infection, including herpes, shingles, cytomegalovirus, chickenpox, parvovirus, West Nile virus, or hepatitis B or C;
a history of heart disease, angina (chest pain), or heart rhythm disorder; or
a history of using Rituxan in the past.
Using Rituxan during pregnancy could harm the unborn baby. Tell your doctor if you are pregnant or if you become pregnant. Use effective birth control to prevent pregnancy while you are using this medicine and for at least 12 months after your last dose.
It is not known whether rituximab passes into breast milk or if it could harm a nursing baby. Tell your doctor if you are breast-feeding a baby.
How is Rituxan given?
Rituxan is injected into a vein through an IV. A healthcare provider will give you this injection. Rituxan is not given daily. Your schedule will depend on the condition being treated. Follow your doctor's dosing instructions very carefully.
Your doctor will perform blood tests to make sure you do not have conditions that would prevent you from safely using Rituxan.
Before each injection, you may be given other medications to prevent certain side effects of Rituxan.
While using rituximab, you may need frequent blood tests.
If you have ever had hepatitis B, Rituxan can cause this condition to come back or get worse. You will need frequent liver function tests during treatment and for several months after you stop using this medicine.
If you need surgery, tell the surgeon ahead of time that you are using rituximab.
See also: Dosage Information (in more detail)
What happens if I miss a dose?
Call your doctor if you miss an appointment for your 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 Rituxan?
Do not receive a "live" vaccine while using this medicine, 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.
Rituxan side effects
Get emergency medical help if you have signs of an allergic reaction to Rituxan: 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.
Rituxan may cause a serious viral infection of the brain or spinal cord 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 Rituxan, 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); or
signs of tumor cell breakdown - lower back pain, blood in your urine, little or no urinating; numbness or tingly feeling around your mouth; muscle weakness or tightness; fast or slow heart rate, weak pulse, trouble breathing; fainting.
Common Rituxan side effects may include:
fever, chills, body aches;
joint pain; 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.
See also: Side effects (in more detail)
What other drugs will affect Rituxan?
Tell your doctor about all your current medicines and any you start or stop using, especially:
medicines to treat rheumatoid arthritis - adalimumab, certolizumab, etanercept, golimumab.
This list is not complete. Other drugs may interact with rituximab, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal products. Not all possible interactions are listed in this medication guide.
More about Rituxan (rituximab)
Related treatment guides
Where can I get more information?
- Your doctor or pharmacist can provide more information about Rituxan.
- Remember, keep this and all other medicines out of the reach of children, never share your medicines with others, and use Rituxan only for the indication prescribed.
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