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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.


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