Objectives: Rituximab has been shown to induce remission of ANCA-associated vasculitides (AAVs). Our study was undertaken to describe AAV clinical responses to rituximab used for remission-induction and/or maintenance therapy, assess rituximab's safety profile and evaluate French clinical practices.
Methods: This retrospective study concerned AAV patients who had received one or more rituximab infusion between 2002 and January 2011 and had follow-up lasting ≥12 months.
Results: Eighty patients were included, most with refractory or relapsing AAV: 70 (88%) with granulomatosis with polyangiitis (GPA), 9 (11%) with microscopic polyangiitis and 1 (1%) with eosinophilic GPA. Rituximab was the first agent used to induce remission in 73 patients. The two most commonly administered regimens were an infusion of 375 mg/m(2)/week for 4 weeks (54 patients) and an infusion of 1 g every 2 weeks for a month (16 patients). Rituximab was first prescribed to maintain remission in seven patients. Respective 1-, 2-, and 3-year relapse-free survival rates after the first infusion were 80% (95% CI 72, 89), 63% (51, 77) and 52% (39, 70). Relapse-free survival was longer for patients receiving rituximab maintenance therapy (P = 0.002). Among 22 (28%) rituximab-treated patients experiencing severe adverse events, 12 (15%) had infectious complications leading to 4 (5%) deaths. Only 15 (19%) patients had received anti-pneumococcal vaccine before rituximab.
Conclusion: Rituximab was able to induce AAV remission and seemed to maintain remission better than other agents, but caution is needed concerning its safety, especially regarding bacterial infections, in this population.
Keywords: ANCA-associated vasculitis; anti-CD20; biologics; eosinophilic granulomatosis with polyangiitis; granulomatosis with polyangiitis; microscopic polyangiitis; rituximab.