Rituximab in Children with Steroid-Dependent Nephrotic Syndrome: A Multicenter, Open-Label, Noninferiority, Randomized Controlled Trial

J Am Soc Nephrol. 2015 Sep;26(9):2259-66. doi: 10.1681/ASN.2014080799. Epub 2015 Jan 15.


Steroid-dependent nephrotic syndrome (SDNS) carries a high risk of toxicity from steroids or steroid-sparing agents. This open-label, noninferiority, randomized controlled trial at four sites in Italy tested whether rituximab is noninferior to steroids in maintaining remission in juvenile SDNS. We enrolled children age 1-16 years who had developed SDNS in the previous 6-12 months and were maintained in remission with high prednisone doses (≥0.7 mg/kg per day). We randomly assigned participants to continue prednisone alone for 1 month (control) or to add a single intravenous infusion of rituximab (375 mg/m(2); intervention). Prednisone was tapered in both groups after 1 month. For noninferiority, rituximab had to permit steroid withdrawal and maintain 3-month proteinuria (mg/m(2) per day) within a prespecified noninferiority margin of three times the levels among controls (primary outcome). We followed participants for ≥1 year to compare risk of relapse (secondary outcome). Fifteen children per group (21 boys; mean age, 7 years [range, 2.6-13.5 years]) were enrolled and followed for ≤60 months (median, 22 months). Three-month proteinuria was 42% lower in the rituximab group (geometric mean ratio, 0.58; 95% confidence interval, 0.18 to 1.95 [i.e., within the noninferiority margin of three times the levels in controls]). All but one child in the control group relapsed within 6 months; median time to relapse in the rituximab group was 18 months (95% confidence interval, 9 to 32 months). In the rituximab group, nausea and skin rash during infusion were common; transient acute arthritis occurred in one child. In conclusion, rituximab was noninferior to steroids for the treatment of juvenile SDNS.

Keywords: nephrotic syndrome; primary glomerulonephritis; randomized controlled trials.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / administration & dosage
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / adverse effects*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunologic Factors / adverse effects
  • Immunologic Factors / therapeutic use*
  • Maintenance Chemotherapy
  • Male
  • Nephrotic Syndrome / complications
  • Nephrotic Syndrome / drug therapy*
  • Prednisone / administration & dosage
  • Prednisone / adverse effects*
  • Proteinuria / etiology
  • Recurrence
  • Rituximab / adverse effects
  • Rituximab / therapeutic use*


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Immunologic Factors
  • Rituximab
  • Prednisone