Rituxan is a cancer medication that works to prevent the growth and spread of cancer cells in the body. This drug has also been prescribed to treat arthritis and certain rare disorders that cause inflammation of blood cells and other tissues. Rituxan also became popular in treating Lupus, although this use is not approved by the FDA. It is classified as an immunosuppressant. In 2007, drug sales totaled $2.3 billion for Rituxan.

In 2006, the FDA announced that it had reports of patients who died after being prescribed Rituxan to treat Lupus. These patients suffered from Progressive Multifocal Leukencephalopathy (PML). PML is a rare and potentially fatal viral disease that shows itself through the inflammation of white matter in the brain. It can be seen most often in people already suffering from immune deficiency, such as transplant patients or people with AIDS. In a few cases, PML was found even a year after the last dose of Rituxan was administered. Of the 57 cases of PML that were reported to the FDA, 90 percent proved fatal.

Also, the FDA found links to brain infection in patients being treated for arthritis and lymphoma.

Serious side effect may include:

  • Lower back pain, blood in your urine, numbness or tingly feeling around your mouth
  • Muscle weakness, tightness, or contraction, overactive reflexes
  • Fast or slow heart rate, weak pulse, feeling short of breath, fainting
  • Uneven heartbeats, wheezing or trouble breathing
  • Confusion, dizziness, loss of balance, sudden numbness or weakness, especially on one side of the body
    Chest pain or heavy feeling, pain spreading to the arm or shoulder, nausea, sweating, general ill feeling
  • Fever, chills, cough, body aches, flu symptoms, ongoing cold symptoms such as stuffy nose, sneezing, sore throat
  • Easy bruising or bleeding, pale skin, trouble concentrating
  • Pain or burning when you urinate, urinating less than usual
  • Earache, painful mouth ulcers, skin sores, warmth or swelling with skin redness
  • Red, raised, blistering, scaly, itchy, or peeling skin rash
  • Severe constipation or stomach pain
  • Black, bloody, or tarry stools
  • Nausea, upper stomach pain, itching, loss of appetite, dark urine, clay-colored stools, jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes)

Less serious Rituxan side effects may include:

  • Mild stomach pain, nausea, or diarrhea
  • Swelling in your hands or feet
  • Headache
  • Muscle spasm, muscle or joint pain
  • Night sweats
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