Introduction: The aim of this study was to evaluate the safety and efficacy of rituximab (RTX) in a large cohort of patients with rheumatoid arthritis in routine care, and to monitor changes in daily practice since the introduction of RTX therapy.
Methods: This was a multicentre, prospective, non-interventional study conducted under routine practice conditions in Germany. Efficacy was evaluated using Disease Activity Score in 28 joints (DAS28) and Health Assessment Questionnaire-Disability Index (HAQ-DI). Safety was assessed by recording adverse drug reactions (ADRs). Physician and patient global efficacy and tolerability assessments were also evaluated.
Results: Overall, 2,484 patients (76.7% female, mean age 56.4 years, mean disease duration 11.7 years) received RTX treatment (22.7% monotherapy). The total observation period was approximately six-years (median follow-up 14.7 months). RTX treatment led to improvements in DAS28 and HAQ-DI that were sustained over multiple courses. DAS28 improvements positively correlated with higher rheumatoid factor levels up to 50 IU/ml. Response and tolerability were rated good/very good by the majority of physicians and patients. Mean treatment intervals were 10.5 and 6.8 months for the first and last 400 enrolled patients, respectively. Infections were the most frequently reported ADRs (9.1%; 11.39/100 patient-years); approximately 1% of patients per course discontinued therapy due to ADRs.
Conclusions: Prolonged RTX treatment in routine care is associated with good efficacy and tolerability, as measured by conventional parameters and by physicians' and patients' global assessments. Rheumatoid factor status served as a distinct and quantitative biomarker of RTX responsiveness. With growing experience, physicians repeated treatments earlier in patients with less severe disease activity.