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J Rheumatol. 2006 May;33(5):1021-6. Epub 2006 Mar 15.

Rituximab as therapy for refractory polymyositis and dermatomyositis.

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Division of Rheumatology, Immunology, and Allergy, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital, and Harvard University School of Medicine, Boston, Massachusetts; and The Center for Rheumatology, Albany, New York, USA.


We describe response to rituximab treatment of refractory inflammatory myopathy. Three patients with long-standing polymyositis (PM) or dermatomyositis (DM) poorly responsive to prednisone combined with several immunosuppressants were given intravenous rituximab 1,000 mg on Days 0 and 14. Prior to rituximab, each had significant proximal weakness with creatine phosphokinase (CPK) elevation to>3 times the normal upper limit (range 789-3,123 U/l). Patients were receiving prednisone plus methotrexate (MTX) or azathioprine. CPK decrease was observed 1 month post-infusion, with normalization of levels averaging 4.6 months (range 2.6-7.7 mo). Muscle strength improved in all, with strength returning to normal in 2. Average daily prednisone dose decreased from 16.7 mg (range 10-20 mg) to 4 mg (range 0-7 mg) after infusion. MTX dose was tapered by 50% in 2 patients. The third patient eventually discontinued all additional therapies. Percentage of CD19+ cells in each were suppressed at 0-1% 5 to 6 months after infusion (normal 5-21%). Elevated CPK with return of clinical symptoms occurred in 2 patients 6 and 10 months post-infusion, requiring rituximab retreatment. CD19+ cells remained suppressed at 1% in one patient, but were almost normal at 4% in the other. The third patient remains disease-free 12 months after initial treatment, even though her CD19+ cells are now normal at 8%. Thus, short-term beneficial effects with rituximab were observed in patients with DM and PM. However, the need for retreatment did not correlate with levels of CD19+ cells.

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