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Rituximab-associated hypogammaglobulinemia in autoimmune rheumatic diseases: a single-center retrospective cohort study

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Rheumatol Int. 2021 Apr 3;1-10. doi: 10.1007/s00296-021-04847-x. Online ahead of print.

Stefanie D Wade 1Vasileios C Kyttaris 2

Author Information

1 Division of Rheumatology and Clinical Immunology, Harvard Medical School, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston, MA, USA.

2 Division of Rheumatology and Clinical Immunology, Harvard Medical School, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston, MA, USA. vkyttari@bidmc.harvard.edu.

Abstract

B-cell targeted therapies, such as rituximab (RTX), are used widely in autoimmune rheumatic diseases (AIRD). RTX can cause hypogammaglobulinemia and predispose patients to infections. Herein, we asked whether the underlying diagnosis influences the risk for hypogammaglobulinemia in patients treated with RTX. All patients who received RTX infusions and carried a diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis (RA), ANCA-associated vasculitis (AAV), or connective tissue disease (CTD) were included in this single-center retrospective cohort study. We used STATA® for analysis: Chi-square test was used for comparing categorical variables. Based on distribution, continuous variables were compared using the t test/ANOVA or the Wilcoxon/Kruskal-Wallis tests. Of the 163 patients who received RTX for an AIRD, 60 with pre- and post- RTX immunoglobulins were analyzed. A higher incidence of post-treatment hypogammaglobulinemia was seen in AAV (45%) compared to RA (22%) and CTD (9.1%) groups (p = 0.03). Glucocorticoid exposure of 10 mg or more was identified as a significant risk factor for hypogammaglobulinemia. Finally, we observed a higher number of clinically significant infections per person in the AAV group than in the RA and CTD groups. We observed an increased incidence of hypogammaglobulinemia in the RTX-treated AAV group, with almost half of patients developing post-RTX hypogammaglobulinemia. The rate of infections per person was highest in the AAV group. Screening immunoglobulins were not consistently measured pre- and post-RTX. Results highlight a need for increased awareness of the role of immunoglobulin measurement before maintenance doses of RTX, especially in patients with AAV and steroid exposure.