Background: Rituximab is a monoclonal antibody directed against the CD20 antigen expressed on B lymphocytes. There are reports of its efficacy in the treatment of autoimmune diseases, including pemphigus.
Objectives: Prospectively to evaluate the efficacy of rituximab as adjuvant treatment for pemphigus vulgaris (PV).
Methods: Patients with PV were treated with intravenous rituximab (375 mg m(-2)) weekly for 4 weeks in this prospective open-label pilot study. Other concurrent immunosuppression was continued.
Results: Of five patients, one achieved complete remission and was able to cease all medication, while two achieved clearance of clinical lesions but continued on systemic therapy. Two patients had progressive disease. Time to response was 2-8 months, with a 13- to 18-month response duration. Response was associated with reduction in serum antiepithelial antibodies. Two patients had significant infectious complications (one developed community-acquired pneumonia associated with delayed-onset neutropenia and the other developed cytomegalovirus infection).
Conclusions: Rituximab has shown efficacy in the treatment of PV. Patients on multiple immunosuppressives should be closely monitored for infectious complications.