Rituximab bulletin about a dangerous virus

    • Anonymous
      March 4, 2008 at 9:22 pm

      I just received MS Dialogue magazine today (I have MS and hubby has CIDP) and there was a bulletin in it about Rituximab stating that users of this drug should be strictly monitored for progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy. Since their are members on this forum using this drug I am posting the article.

      PML, Identified in Patients Treated With Investigational Drug

      European researchers recommend that patients treated with rituximab, a new drug now being studied for MS, be strictly monitored for progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy, PML is a progressive, demylelinating disease of the central nervous system caused by the JC virus. The virus can be reactivated in people taking medications that alter their immune response. In MS patients, three cases occurred during clinical trials of natalizumab (Tysabri) and resulted in two deaths.

      Rituximab is a monoclonal antibody that targets a specific antigen (called CD20) on one type of immune cells (called B cells). Preliminary studies have indicated that it may be effective in MS, and phase III trials are now being planned.

      In studies to date, four cases of PML, have been identified in people with diseases of the autoimmune system (not MS) treated with rituximab. The most recent case was a 70 year old woman who received rituximab and a variety of immunosuppressant drugs. She developed cognitive impairment, became partially paralysed adn lost the ability to speak. The JC virus was detected in her cerebral spinal fluid.

      The researchers recommend a monitoring program for rituximab studies similar to the one that is now in place for patients taking Tysabri. Canadians with MS must talk to their doctor about the benefits and risks and are advised to enroll in the Canadian Tysabri Care Program (1-888-837-2827).