PML & Rituximab (Rituxan™)

Rituximab (Rituxan™) is in a class of drugs called antineoplastic (certain type of anticancer) agents. It is an intravenous medication used to treat non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (a cancer that starts in a type of white blood cell that normally fights infection) and the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis (a condition in which the body attacks its own joints, resulting in pain, swelling and loss of function).

Rituximab is a man-made monoclonal antibody, a type of disease-fighting cell manufactured in the laboratory. It works by significantly decreasing the number of specific immune cells in the blood, called B cells.

PML and Rituximab

Some people who take Rituxan™ develop a rare brain infection called progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML). PML occurs in people whose immune systems are suppressed. The disease is caused by a virus, called the John Cunningham Virus (JCV), which is found in the kidneys of most people.

Until the immune system is compromised, it remains latent. The virus travels through the bloodstream to the brain, where it destroys the myelin, a substance that protects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. The disease progresses over a period of days or months, almost always ending in severe disability or death.

PML Symptoms

Symptoms of PML worsen over time. They include:

  • Headaches
  • Loss of cognition (ability to process information)
  • Weakness of the arms and legs
  • Memory loss
  • Clumsiness and lack of coordination
  • Aphasia (loss of the ability to speak, listen, read and write)
  • Vision problems

Some people who have taken rituximab have developed severe reactions causing death within 24 hours after receiving the medication. This usually occurs after taking the first dose of the drug. Patients should tell their doctor if they have ever had:

  • Chronic lymphocytic leukemia
  • Mantle cell lymphoma
  • An irregular heartbeat
  • Heart disease
  • Lung disease

Rituxan™, when used to treat patients with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, can cause a condition known as tumor lysis syndrome (a cluster of symptoms that result from the rapid breakdown of cancer cells). The syndrome may lead to kidney failure and require kidney dialysis. Patients with systemic lupus erythematosus also have died after receiving rituximab.

Rituximab is manufactured by San Francisco-based Genentech, a member of the Roche group. It has been on the market since 1997.

PML & Rituximab Lawsuit

If you or a loved one has developed PML or other severe disease after taking rituximab, you should contact an attorney for help. A qualified drug lawyer might be able to help you recover compensation for the suffering and pain you have endured.

For more information, or to schedule a free case review with a qualified PML lawyer, please contact us today.

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