Efficacy and safety of anti-CD20 antibody rituximab for patients with refractory systemic lupus erythematosus

Objective: We examined the efficacy and safety of rituximab in patients with refractory systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Methods: The study enrolled 63 SLE patients who were treated with rituximab between 2002 and 2015. The participants underwent a battery of tests before treatment and at one year. Treatment ranged from two to four times at 500 or 1000 mg. Results: Baseline characteristics were males:females¼6:57, age 33.9 years, and disease duration 87.2 months. The primary endpoint: The rate of major clinical response (MCR) was 60% while the partial clinical response (PCR) was 25%. Thirty of 36 (83%) patients with lupus nephritis (WHO II: 2, III: 5, IV: 22, V: 4, IVþV: 2, not assessed: 1) and 22 of 24 patients (92%) with neuropsychiatric SLE, who could be followed at one year, showed changes from BILAG A or B score to C or D score at one year. Multivariate analysis identified high antidsDNA antibody and shorter disease duration as significant determinants of MCR at one year. Repeat examination was conducted at five years. Primary failure was recorded in 8.8% and secondary failure in 32.4% (time to relapse: 24.4 months). Rituximab was well tolerated although 65 adverse events, mostly infections, were recorded within one year. Conclusion: Rituximab is potentially efficacious for the treatment of patients with refractory SLE. Lupus (2018) 0, 1–10.

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