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What is rituximab and why is it prescribed?

Rituximab (trade name: MabThera) is a type of drug called a biological therapy. In some conditions, B-cells in the body produce harmful autoantibodies which attack the body's own tissues. Rituximab works by depleting the B-cells to reduce inflammation and improve your symptoms.

If rituximab works for you, you should start to feel better within 2–16 weeks.

Riruximab can be prescribed by a rheumatologist for:

Are there any reasons I won't be prescribed rituximab?

Rituximab won't be started if:

  • the disease isn't active
  • you've not tried other treatments appropriate for your condition first
  • you have an infection.

Your doctor may decide not to prescribe rituximab if you're pregnant or breastfeeding, or if:

  • you have severe heart problems
  • you get short of breath very easily
  • your B-cell or antibody levels are low
  • you have seronegative rheumatoid arthritis (with no rheumatoid factor and no anti-CCP antibodies).

You'll have blood tests to check your antibody and possibly your B-cell levels before treatment and every few months afterwards. Your doctor may also check for previous hepatitis infection as rituximab may increase the risk of hepatitis being reactivated.

For more information, go to www.arthritisresearchuk.org.
Arthritis Research UK fund research into the cause, treatment and cure of arthritis. You can support Arthritis Research UK by volunteering, donating or visiting our shops.