Rituximab vs placebo induction prior to glatiramer acetate monotherapy in multiple sclerosis

Neurology. 2019 Feb 12;92(7):e723-e732. doi: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000006916. Epub 2019 Jan 11.


Objective: To examine whether rituximab induction followed by glatiramer acetate (GA) monotherapy is more effective than GA alone for the treatment of relapsing multiple sclerosis with active disease.

Methods: This was a single-center, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Fifty-five participants were randomly assigned (1:1 ratio) to either rituximab (R-GA) or placebo (P-GA) induction, followed by GA therapy initiated in all participants. Participants were followed up to 3 years. The primary endpoint was the number of participants with no evidence of disease activity (NEDA): those without relapse, new MRI lesions, and sustained change in disability.

Results: Twenty-eight and 27 participants received rituximab and placebo induction, respectively, with one participant in each arm withdrawing before 6-month MRI. There were no significant differences in baseline characteristics. At end of study, 44.44% of R-GA participants demonstrated NEDA vs 19.23% of P-GA participants (p = 0.049). Treatment failed for a smaller proportion of R-GA participants (37.04% R-GA vs 69.23% P-GA, p = 0.019), and time to treatment failure was longer (23.32 months R-GA vs 11.29 months P-GA, p = 0.027). Fewer participants in the R-GA arm had new lesions (25.93% R-GA vs 61.54% P-GA, p = 0.009), and there were fewer new T2 lesions (0.48 R-GA vs 1.96 P-GA, p = 0.027). Probability of demonstrating NEDA in the R-GA arm returned to baseline within the study period. There were no differences in adverse events.

Conclusions: Induction therapy with rituximab followed by GA may provide superior efficacy in the short term than GA alone in relapsing multiple sclerosis, but this benefit appears to wane within the study period. Larger studies are needed to assess sustainability of results.

Clinicaltrialsgov identifier: NCT01569451.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Demyelinating Diseases / diagnostic imaging
  • Demyelinating Diseases / drug therapy
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Glatiramer Acetate / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Immunologic Factors / therapeutic use*
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / therapeutic use
  • Induction Chemotherapy
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Maintenance Chemotherapy
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multiple Sclerosis, Relapsing-Remitting / diagnostic imaging
  • Multiple Sclerosis, Relapsing-Remitting / drug therapy*
  • Rituximab / therapeutic use*


  • Immunologic Factors
  • Immunosuppressive Agents
  • Rituximab
  • Glatiramer Acetate

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT01569451