, Volume 69, Issue 9, pp 1689-1699
Date: 23 May 2013

Available evidence and outcome of off-label use of rituximab in clinical practice

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Abstract

Purpose

To analyze the therapeutic indications for off-label use of rituximab, the available evidence for its use, the outcomes, and the cost.

Methods

This was a retrospective analysis of patients treated with rituximab for off-label indications from January 2007 to December 2009 in two tertiary hospitals. Information on patient characteristics, medical conditions, and therapeutic responses was collected from medical records. Available evidence for the efficacy of rituximab in each condition was reviewed, and the cost of treatment was calculated.

Results

A total of 101 cases of off-label rituximab use were analyzed. The median age of the patients involved was 53 [interquartile range (IQR) 37.5–68.0] years; 55.4 % were women. The indications for prescribing rituximab were primarily hematological diseases (46 %), systemic connective tissue disorders (27 %), and kidney diseases (20 %). Available evidence supporting rituximab treatment for these indications mainly came from individual cohort studies (53.5 % of cases) and case series (25.7 %). The short-term outcome (median 3 months, IQR 2–4 months) was a complete response in 38 % of cases and partial response in 32.6 %. The highest short-term responses were observed for systemic lupus erythematosus and membranous glomerulonephritis, and the lowest was for neuromyelitis optica, idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura, and miscellaneous indications. Some response was maintained in long-term follow-up (median 23 months IQR 12–30 months) in 69.2 % of patients showing a short-term response. Median cost per patient was € 5,187.5 (IQR € 5,187.5–7,781.3).

Conclusions

In our study, off-label rituximab was mainly used for the treatment of hematological, kidney, and systemic connective tissue disorders, and the response among our patient cohort was variable depending on the specific disease. The level of evidence supporting the use of rituximab for these indications was low and the cost was very high. We conclude that more clinical trials on the off-label use of rituximab are needed, although these may be difficult to conduct in some rare diseases. Data from observational studies may provide useful information to assist prescribing in clinical practice.