Objective: The most cost-effective dosing regimen for rituximab treatment in RA is currently unknown. The objective of this study is to determine whether low rituximab serum levels are associated with progression of structural damage in RA patients.
Methods: Sixty-two RA patients were treated with rituximab in three different centres. Structural damage was assessed on radiographs of hands and feet before and 1 year after therapy using the Sharp-van der Heijde scoring method (SHS). Patients were divided into progressors vs non-progressors based on different cut-off values. Rituximab serum levels were measured by sandwich ELISA after 4 and 12 weeks (Leiden University Medical Center and University Medical Centre, Utrecht cohorts) or 4 and 16 weeks (Academic Medical Center/University of Amsterdam cohort).
Results: There was no difference in rituximab levels between progressors and non-progressors 4 weeks and 12 or 16 weeks after initiation of treatment in the different cohorts. There was also no correlation between rituximab levels at week 4 or week 12 or 16 and change in SHS score after 1 year.
Conclusion: Low rituximab serum levels are not associated with progression of structural damage in RA patients. The results do not support the use of dosages higher than 2 × 1000 mg rituximab to inhibit progression of joint destruction.
Keywords: B cells; biologics; radiology; rheumatoid arthritis; rituximab.