Rituxan (generic: rituximab), a drug used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, non-hodgkins lymphoma and systemic lupus erythematosus has been linked to a rare but serious, life-threatening brain infection called Progressive Multifocal Leukoencephalopathy, or PML.
What’s the problem?
Rituxan is only approved for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis and non-hodgkins lymphoma; however it is permitted and has become popular to treat lupus in an off-label fashion.
In December 2006, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration issued a public health advisory, which warned physicians and the public that two lupus patients that were prescribed Rituxan died from Progressive Multifocal Leukoencephalopathy or PML infections. In addition, the FDA is aware of 23 rheumatoid arthritis and lymphoma patients that have been diagnosed with the brain infection. In some cases, the generally fatal viral infection PML was noted in patients as late as one year after taking their last dose.
Unfortunatly, there is no known cure for Progressive Multifocal Leukoencephalopathy.
FDA Video: Rituxan Linked to PML (Progressive Multifocal Leukoencephalopathy) Brain Infections
Below is an excellent video produced by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA), which warns patients and physicians of serious, life-threatening viral brain infections (Progressive Multifocal Leukoencephalopathy) linked to Rituxan (Rituximab).
Read the Full Transcript: Rituxan Linked to PML (Progressive Multifocal Leukoencephalopathy) Brain Infections
What is Rituxan?
Rituxan is a drug manufactured by Genentech USA, Inc. and Biogen Idec, Inc. Rituxan is a powerful immunosuppressant that helps the immune system to decrease certain types of white blood cells. Unfortunately, by decreasing certain B-cells in the body, Rituxan increases the risk of causing the JC virus to become active and thus causing the rare brain infection Progressive Multifocal Leukoencephalopathy, or PML.
What is Progressive Multifocal Leukoencephalopathy?
Progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML), also known as progressive multifocal leukoencephalitis, is a rare and usually fatal viral disease that is characterized by progressive damage or inflammation of the white matter of the brain at multiple locations. It occurs almost exclusively in people with severe immune deficiency, e.g. transplant patients on immunosuppressive medications, or AIDS patients but has been seen in rheumatoid arthritis, non-hodgkins lymphoma and lupus patients.
PML is caused by a type of polyomavirus called the JC virus (JCV). The virus is widespread, with 86% of the general U.S. population presenting antibodies, but it usually remains latent, causing disease only when the immune system has been severely weakened.
Symptoms of Progressive Multifocal Leukoencephalopathy
There are a variety of symptoms of PML that can sometimes be noticed by the patient affected but also by the patient’s doctor. The following is a list of signs and symptoms related to Progressive Multifocal Leukoencephalopathy.
- Mental deterioration
- Vision loss
- Speech disturbances
- Muscle weakness
- Facial weakness
- Memory failure
- Cognition failure