Rituxan (rituximab) is a cancer medication that interferes with the growth and spread of cancer cells in the body.
Rituxan is used in combination with other cancer medicines to treat non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma or chronic lymphocytic leukemia. Rituxan is also used in combination with another drug called methotrexate to treat symptoms of adult rheumatoid arthritis.
Rituxan is also used in combination with steroid medicines to treat certain rare disorders that cause inflammation of blood vessels and other tissues in the body.
You should not receive Rituxan if you have ever had a severe allergic reaction to rituximab, or if you are allergic to mouse protein.
To make sure you can safely use Rituxan, tell your doctor if you have any of these other conditions:
- liver disease or hepatitis B (or if you are a carrier of hepatitis B);
- kidney disease;
- systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE);
- lung disease or a breathing disorder;
- a weak immune system;
- a recent or active infection, including herpes, shingles, cytomegalovirus, chickenpox, parvovirus, West Nile virus, hepatitis C, or any infection that keeps coming back or does not clear up;
- a history of heart disease, angina (chest pain), or heart rhythm disorder; or
- if you have used certain arthritis medicines in the past that were not effective, including adalimumab (Humira), certolizumab (Cimzia), golimumab (Simponi), etanercept (Enbrel), or infliximab (Remicade).
FDA pregnancy category C. It is not known whether Rituxan will harm an unborn baby. Rituxan can affect the immune system of a newborn if the mother receives the medication during pregnancy. Tell your doctor if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant. Use effective birth control while you are using this medication and for at least 12 months after your treatment ends. Rituxan can remain in the body for up to 6 months after you stop receiving it. It is not known whether rituximab passes into breast milk or if it could harm a nursing baby. Do not receive Rituxan without telling your doctor if you are breast feeding a baby.
Some people receiving a Rituxan injection have had a reaction to the infusion (when the medicine is injected into the vein). Tell your caregiver right away if you feel dizzy, weak, nauseated, light-headed, or if you have a fever, cough, sore throat, skin rash, fast or uneven heart rate, weak or shallow breathing, or pain in your chest or shoulders.
Get emergency medical help if you have any of these signs of an allergic reaction to Rituxan: hives; wheezing, chest tightness, trouble breathing; swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat. Rituxan increases the risk of a serious viral infection of the brain that can lead to disability or death. This risk is higher if you have a weak immune system or are receiving certain medicines. Call your doctor right away if you have symptoms such as change in your mental state, problems with speech or walking, or decreased vision. These symptoms may start gradually and get worse quickly.
Call your doctor at once if you have any of these other serious side effects, even if they occur several months after you receive Rituxan, or after your treatment ends.
- lower back pain, blood in your urine, numbness or tingly feeling around your mouth;
- muscle weakness, tightness, or contraction, overactive reflexes;
- fast or slow heart rate, weak pulse, feeling short of breath, fainting;
- uneven heartbeats, wheezing or trouble breathing;
- confusion, dizziness, loss of balance, sudden numbness or weakness, especially on one side of the body;
- chest pain or heavy feeling, pain spreading to the arm or shoulder, nausea, sweating, general ill feeling;
- fever, chills, cough, body aches, flu symptoms, ongoing cold symptoms such as stuffy nose, sneezing, sore throat;
- easy bruising or bleeding, pale skin, trouble concentrating;
- pain or burning when you urinate, urinating less than usual;
- earache, painful mouth ulcers, skin sores, warmth or swelling with skin redness;
- a red, raised, blistering, scaly, itchy, or peeling skin rash;
- severe constipation or stomach pain;
- black, bloody, or tarry stools; or
- nausea, upper stomach pain, itching, loss of appetite, dark urine, clay-colored stools, jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes).
Less serious Rituxan side effects may include:
- mild stomach pain, nausea, or diarrhea;
- swelling in your hands or feet;
- muscle spasm, muscle or joint pain; or
- night sweats.
This is not a complete list of side effects and others may occur. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects.