Rituxan May Help With Kidney Disorder

Idiopathic membranous nephropathy patients taking rituximab experienced remission

(RxWiki News) While medications can help people with kidney problems, they are no magic bullet. In some cases, the drugs used to treat kidney disorders can lead to complications just as serious as the original problem.

Patients with a certain kidney disorder experienced remission (decrease in disease symptoms) after taking the drug rituximab (sold as Rituxan).

In addition, patients who took rituximab did not experience serious side effects.

"Ask your doctor about the safety of your prescription drugs."

In their recent study, Piero Ruggenenti, MD, of Mario Negri Institute for Pharmacological Research in Italy, and colleagues set out to see if rituximab was a safe and effective way to treat patients with idiopathic membranous nephropathy - an inflammatory kidney disorder that can lead to kidney failure.

Currently, the standard treatment for idiopathic membranous nephropathy involves steroids and other drugs that suppress the immune system to control inflammation. Unfortunately, these drugs can be toxic and lead to serious complications.

Dr. Ruggenenti and colleagues wanted to see if rituximab would be a good replacement for the potentially toxic drugs currently used to treat this kidney disorder.

Results showed that 65 out of 100 patients who received rituximab experienced complete or partial remission after an average of 29 months.

A total of 27 patients who took rituximab experienced total remission, meaning all signs of the disorder disappeared.

Among those patients who were followed for 4 years, rituximab treatment led to complete or partial remission while their kidney function got better over time.

Patients taking rituximab did not experience any serious side effects related to drug treatment.

Futhermore, rituximab was effective even in those patients who did not benefit from steroids and other drugs, suggesting that rituximab may be a good replacement when other treatments fail.

"Rituximab may lead to major progress in the treatment of patients with idiopathic membranous nephropathy, and in consideration of its excellent safety profile, it might replace other toxic regimens as first line treatment of this disease," said Giuseppe Remuzzi, MD, FRCP, also of Mario Negri Institute of Pharmacological Research and co-author of the study.

Rituximab also may be an easier drug to take, compared to steroids and other drugs for idiopathic membranous nephropathy. While patients taking steroids and other drugs need at least six months of treatment, those taking rituximab need only one intravenous infusion, or injection.

This study was fairly small, with only 100 participants. In addition, the researchers did not compare the safety and effectiveness of rituximab to that of placebo or another drug. As such, more research is needed to see if rituximab should be used as a first line treatment for idiopathic membranous nephropathy.

The researchers reported no financial disclosures.

The research was published August 1 in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology.

Review Date: 
July 31, 2012