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Medications > Rituximab | Rituxan > Rituximab (Rituxan) – pictopamphlet

RITUXIMAB (Rituxan) [Ri-TUX-i-mab]

How to use this medication

What is it

Some people with arthritis have special immune cells called B-cells that attack the joints. Rituximab is a biologic medicine that kills B-cells and helps the pain and swelling of arthritis.

Given by intravenous (IV)  infusion

Rituximab is given by an intravenous infusion (IV) by a trained nurse.  Each infusion can take from 4 to 6 hours.

Two infusions

Rituximab is given on day 0 and again 2 weeks later.  The treatment may be repeated every 6 months although some people can go longer between treatments.

Give it some time

Although some patients can feel better soon after receiving the medication, in others it can take a little longer even up to 3 or 4 months.

What you need to do

Get occasional blood tests

Have your blood tested occasionally (your doctor will tell you how often). This is important to make sure rituximab isn’t affecting your blood counts.

Don’t get pregnant or breastfeed

Rituximab has not been studied in pregnancy.  Let your doctor know if you are planning to get pregnant or if you are breastfeeding.

Don’t take if you have an infection

Rituximab can make it harder for you to fight off infections. Call your doctor if:

  • You develop a fever
  • You think you have an infection
  • You are given antibiotics to treat an infection

Make sure to get Hepatitus B testing

All patients should have a blood test to check for hepatitis B before starting rituximab.

Side effects & important things to know

Infusion reaction

Rituximab can rarely cause an allergic reaction during the infusion.  It is rare for these reactions to be serious. To prevent infusion reactions, a medication called solumedrol (steroid) is given before each infusion.

Heart problems

Rituximab has been associated with abnormal heart rhythms.  Tell your doctor if you have a heart rhythm problem.

Rare skin reactions

Severe skin reactions have rarely been reported in patients receiving rituximab.

Rare brain infection

Patients have very rarely developed a rare brain infection called PML while taking rituximab.  This is very rare.


Rituximab should be stopped before surgery.  It can be restarted once things have healed and there is no sign of infection.  If you are having surgery, talk to your doctor about rituximab.

When should I call my doctor

Please call if you need to stop

  • If you are concerned about any side effects
  • If you want to or have already decided to stop the medicine

Other Reasons to Call your Doctor:

Fever or think you have an infection

If you are having surgery

If you become pregnant

If you plan to get any vaccinations

If you develop a rash