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Rituximab is used in the treatment of non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL), blood cancer (chronic lymphocytic leukemia) and rheumatoid arthritis

How it works

Rituximab is a monoclonal antibody that specifically binds to receptors on cancer cells. Thus Rituximab flags the cancer cells for destruction by the body's immune system.

Common side effects

Fever, Chills, Low energy, Nasopharyngitis, Infection, Upper respiratory tract infection, Bronchitis, Urinary tract infection, Decreased white blood cell count (lymphocytes)

Available Medicine

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Expert advice

  • Seek immediate medical attention if you develop any severe skin and mouth reactions: painful sores or ulcers on the skin, lips, or mouth; blisters; rash; or peeling skin.
  • Use rituximab with extreme caution in children and elderly.
  • Rituximab may cause a serious viral infection of the brain or progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy that can lead to disability or death. Consult your doctor immediately if you experience any change in your mental state, decreased vision, or problems with speech or walking.
  • Take precautions if you have or had any of the following medical conditions: hepatitis infection (rituximab could be fatal in such cases), any other infection such as (herpes, shingles, cytomegalovirus, etc.), systemic lupus erythematosus, heart problems (such as angina, palpitations or heart failure), lung disease or breathing problems, taken medicines which affect your immune system (such as chemotherapy or immune-suppressive medicines) or used certain arthritis medicines.
  • You may be asked to stop taking medicines for high blood pressure 12 hours before you receive rituximab as it may cause a fall in the blood pressure.
  • Avoid activities that may cause bruising or injury as rituximab may reduce the number of clot-forming cells (platelets) in your blood.
  • You may be monitored with regular blood tests before and during the treatment with rituximab to monitor your condition or check for side effects.
  • Do not receive live vaccine (such as measles, mumps, rubella and others) while using rituximab, and avoid contact with anyone who has recently received a live vaccine as there are chances that the virus could be passed on to you. 
  • Use effective method of contraception while using and after 12 months after your last treatment with rituximab.

Frequently asked questions


Q. Is rituximab considered chemotherapy/ a vesicant/ immunotherapy/ a biologic/ cytotoxic/ dialyzable/ cause cancer?
Rituximab is a biological immunotherapy which is used along with chemotherapy to treat certain cancers. It has not shown to have any vesicant or irritant properties. It can be classified as a cytotoxic since it destroys B cells

Q. Does rituximab work?
Rituximab works in most patients if taken at recommended dosage and duration

Q. Is rituximab safe/ carcinogenic to humans/ cause low blood counts/ cause hair loss/ cause weight gain/ make you tired/ affect fertility/ cause neutropenia/cause fatigue?
Rituximab is safe if taken at recommended dosage and duration. As with most anti-cancer drugs, it may have certain side effects such as it can cause low blood counts, hair loss, weight gain or loss, cause fatigue and feeling of tiredness, affect fertility, cause neutropenia. Always consult your doctor before taking this medication

Q. Is rituximab FDA approved?
Rituximab is a FDA approved drug.

Content on this page was last updated on 13 January, 2017, by Dr. Varun Gupta (MD Pharmacology)