Objective: To analyse the efficacy and safety of rituximab in the treatment of non-renal systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).
Methods: We systematically searched MEDLINE, EMBASE and the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials up to June 2013. The following were the selection criteria: (1) adult patients with SLE, (2) rituximab treatment, (3) placebo or active comparator, (4) outcome measures assessing efficacy and/or (5) safety. Meta-analysis, systematic literature reviews, randomised control trials (RCT), open clinical trials and cohort studies were included. Independent extraction of articles by 2 authors using predefined data fields was performed. The quality of each study was graded using the Oxford Levels of Evidence and Jadad's scale.
Results: A total of 26 articles met our inclusion criteria: one RCT and its exploratory analysis, 2 open studies and 22 cohort studies, which analysed 1,231 patients. Overall, patients had active disease refractory to steroids and/or immunosuppressant drugs. Acceptable evidence suggested improvements in disease activity, arthritis, thrombocytopaenia, complement and anti-dsDNA, with a steroid-sparing effect. But relapses of disease were demonstrated too. Weak evidence suggested a response in anaemia, cutaneous and neuropsychiatric manifestations. Available evidence revealed few major adverse events. Studies had medium methodological quality and in general were applicable to current practice.
Conclusion: Rituximab has been shown to be safe and effective in the treatment of non-renal SLE, especially in terms of disease activity, immunologic parameters and steroid-sparing effect. However, it can only be recommended for organ-specific manifestations such as arthritis and thrombocytopaenia. High-quality studies are needed in order to consider the long-term effects of re-treatment on different organ-specific manifestations.
Keywords: Rituximab; Systematic review; Systemic lupus erythematosus.
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