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Rituximab (Rituxan)

Article Translations: (Spanish)

How does this medicine work?

Rituximab (ri-tuks-i-mab) is a medicine used to treat certain types of cancer. It uses the body's immune system to destroy cancer cells. It can also be used to treat idiopathic thombocytopenia (ITP) by destroying certain cells that cause the body to break down platelets.

How is it given?

Rituximab is given into the vein (IV) by slow infusion. The medicine must be given over several hours to prevent and monitor any allergic reaction.

What are the side effects?

Common

  • "flu-like" symptoms:
    • fever
    • chills
    • nausea

Occasional 

  • headache
  • low blood pressure 
  • itching 
  • low blood counts 
  • abdominal (belly) pain 
  • swelling of hands and feet 
  • muscle pain 
  • night sweats 
  • rash 
  • dizziness 
  • trouble breathing

Rare

  • kidney damage 
  • severe infusion reactions 
  • severe rash

Rituximab can also cause an allergic reaction. Signs of this are:

  • redness in face 
  • rash or hives 
  • fever or chills 
  • shortness of breath 
  • trouble breathing

When should I call the doctor?

  • skin rash 
  • fever higher than 101.5º F (38.6º C) 
  • bleeding 
  • signs of allergic reaction (as above) 
  • chest pain, irregular heartbeat 
  • little or no urine 
  • trouble breathing - call 911

What else do I need to know?

Your child will be given acetaminophen (Tylenol® or another brand) and diphenhydramine (Benadryl®) before the dose of rituximab to help avoid the flu-like symptoms and decrease the chance of allergic reactions.

Your child's blood pressure and heart rate will be watched closely while receiving the medicine. If your child is taking medicine to lower blood pressure, be sure to let your care provider know when the last dose was taken.

Report any signs of an allergic reaction during the infusion (see above).

Your child needs to be off rituximab and chemotherapy for at least 3 months before receiving any live vaccines. Check with the clinic before your child receives any immunizations.

Blood tests may be needed to check the effects of the rituximab. Blood tests will also be needed to check for Hepatitis B while receiving this medicine, and 6 months after the last dose.

You and your child should know the names of the all the medicines he or she is taking. Share this information with anyone involved in your child's care.

Check with the doctor, nurse practitioner, or pharmacist before giving any other prescription or non-prescription medicines, herbs, or vitamins.

Questions?

This is not specific to your child but provides general information. If you have any questions, please call the oncology clinic or pharmacy.

Children's Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota
Last reviewed 8/2015 

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This page is not specific to your child, but provides general information on the topic above. If you have any questions, please call your clinic. For more reading material about this and other health topics, please call or visit Children's Family Resource Center library, or visit www.childrensmn.org/educationmaterials.

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