Rituximab: in rheumatoid arthritis

BioDrugs. 2007;21(5):333-41: discussion 342. doi: 10.2165/00063030-200721050-00005.


An important role for B cells in the immunopathogenesis of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is recognized. Rituximab is a chimeric murine/human anti-CD20 monoclonal antibody that transiently depletes CD20+ B cells. A single course of rituximab (two intravenous infusions of 1,000mg given two weeks apart) with a stable dose of methotrexate significantly improved all measures of disease activity, fatigue, and health-related quality of life relative to placebo with methotrexate. This was demonstrated in the REFLEX trial, a 24-week, randomized, double-blind, double-dummy, international, phase III study in 520 patients who had active RA despite ongoing treatment with methotrexate and had experienced an inadequate response to anti-tumor necrosis factor (TNF) therapy. Patients in REFLEX (or other studies) who responded to, and required further treatment after, an initial course of rituximab continued to respond to subsequent courses of the drug. A small subgroup of patients in REFLEX continued to respond to their first course of rituximab through 48 weeks of follow-up. Long-term treatment (up to 56 weeks) with one or more courses of rituximab in REFLEX significantly inhibited joint structural damage, the first time this effect has been reported in patients with an inadequate response to TNF inhibitors. Rituximab was generally well tolerated; the majority of adverse events were related to the first infusion of the drug, were mild to moderate in severity, and were easily managed. The adverse event profile of rituximab was unchanged after repeat courses.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / administration & dosage
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / immunology
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / therapeutic use*
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Murine-Derived
  • Antigens, CD20 / immunology
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / drug therapy*
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / immunology
  • Clinical Trials, Phase III as Topic
  • Humans
  • Infusions, Intravenous
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Rituximab


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Murine-Derived
  • Antigens, CD20
  • Rituximab