A review of the current use of rituximab in autoimmune diseases

Int Immunopharmacol. 2009 Jan;9(1):10-25. doi: 10.1016/j.intimp.2008.10.004. Epub 2008 Nov 8.


Rituximab is a human/murine chimeric monoclonal antibody primarily used for treating non-Hodgkin's B-cell lymphoma. Recently it has also been used in the treatment of several autoimmune diseases. A literature review was conducted to determine the efficacy of rituximab in the treatment of some of these autoimmune diseases. Multiple mechanisms proposed for the rituximab mediated B cell depletion are also discussed. The efficacy of rituximab is well-established and it is FDA approved for treatment of Rheumatoid arthritis. In this review, data on the use of rituximab is presented from 92 studies involving 1197 patients with the following diseases: systemic lupus erythematosus, idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura, anti-neutrophil cytoplasmic antibody associated vasculitis, Grave's disease, autoimmune hemolytic anemia, pemphigus vulgaris, hemophilia A, cold agglutinin disease, Sjogren's syndrome, graft vs. host disease, thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura, cryoglobulinemia, IgM mediated neuropathy, multiple sclerosis, neuromyelitis optica, idiopathic membranous nephropathy, dermatomyositis, and opsoclonus myoclonus. The efficacy varies among different autoimmune diseases. The cumulative data would suggest that in the vast majority of studies in this review, RTX has a beneficial role in their treatment. While rituximab is very effective in the depletion of B cells, current research suggests it may also influence other cells of the immune system by re-establishing immune homeostasis and tolerance. The safety profile of RTX reveals that most reactions are infusion related. In patients with autoimmune diseases the incidence of serious and severe side effects is low. Systemic infection still remains a major concern and may result in death.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / therapeutic use*
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Murine-Derived
  • Antirheumatic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Autoimmune Diseases / drug therapy*
  • Autoimmune Diseases / pathology
  • B-Lymphocytes / drug effects
  • B-Lymphocytes / pathology
  • Drug Approval
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulins, Intravenous / therapeutic use
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Rituximab
  • United States
  • United States Food and Drug Administration


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Murine-Derived
  • Antirheumatic Agents
  • Immunoglobulins, Intravenous
  • Rituximab