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Tuesday 01 June 2004

Rituximab in autoimmune diseases.

By: Virgolini L, Marzocchi V.

Biomed Pharmacother 2004 Jun;58(5):299-309

Modern treatments of autoimmune diseases are based on immunological therapies. Rituximab induces a targeted B-cell depletion in the aim of eradicating autoreactive clones in various autoimmune disorders. Several studies are being undertaken and preliminary reports are very encouraging. The mechanism of action is not evident, but appears to be connected with the lowering of autoantibody levels, in the diseases where relevant antibody titres are relievable. Most of the patients treated were affected by idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP) and autoimmune haemolytic anaemia, but also very rare diseases like acquired haemophilia are reported. Best results are described in autoimmune haemolytic anaemia, in many others there is clear evidence for efficacy; in all the diseases the number of complete or partial remission, though temporary, is much greater than 50%. Side effects are rarely reported, and immunosuppression is not a great problem. The persistence of clinical improvement for more than 1 year after B-lymphocyte repopulation supports the hypothesis of a stochastic generation of pathogenic B-cell subsets. Other studies and controlled trials are required to establish when and which patients are to be treated, and find the opportunity of the association of others drugs. Copyright 2004 Elsevier SAS

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