Short-term efficacy and safety of rituximab therapy in refractory systemic lupus erythematosus: results from the British Isles Lupus Assessment Group Biologics Register

Eoghan M McCarthy, Emily Sutton, Stephanie Nesbit, James White, Ben Parker, David Jayne, Bridget Griffiths, David A Isenberg, Anisur Rahman, Caroline Gordon, David P D'Cruz, Benjamin Rhodes, Peter Lanyon, Edward M Vital, Chee-Seng Yee, Christopher J Edwards, Lee-Suan Teh, Mohammed Akil, Neil J McHugh, Asad ZomaIan N Bruce

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

69 Citations (SciVal)


Objectives. To describe the baseline characteristics of SLE patients requiring biologic therapy in the UK and to explore short term efficacy and infection rates associated with rituximab (RTX) use. Methods. Patients commencing biologic therapy for refractory SLE and who consented to join BILAG-BR were analysed. Baseline characteristics, disease activity (BILAG 2004/SLEDAI-2K) and rates of infection over follow-up were analysed. Response was defined as loss of all A and B BILAG scores to41 B score with no new A/B scores in other organ systems at 6 months. Results. Two hundred and seventy SLE patients commenced biologic therapy from September 2010 to September 2015, most commonly RTX (n = 261). Two hundred and fifty (93%) patients were taking glucocorticoids at baseline at a median [interquartile range (IQR)] oral dose of 10mg (5-20 mg) daily. Response rates at 6 months were available for 68% of patients. The median (IQR) BILAG score was 15 (10-23) at baseline and 3 (2-12) at 6 months (P<0.0001). The median (IQR) SLEDAI-2K reduced from 8 (5-12) to 4 (0-7) (P<0.001). Response was achieved in 49% of patients. There was also a reduction in glucocorticoid use to a median (IQR) dose of 7.5mg (5-12 mg) at 6 months (P< 0.001). Serious infections occurred in 26 (10%) patients, being more frequent in the first 3 months post-RTX therapy. A higher proportion of early infections were non-respiratory (odds ratio = 1.98, 95% CI: 0.99, 3.9; P = 0.049). Conclusion. RTX is safe and is associated with improvement in disease activity in refractory SLE patients with concomitant reductions in glucocorticoid use. Early vigilance for infection post-infusion is important to further improve treatment risks and benefits.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)470-479
Number of pages10
Issue number3
Early online date5 Dec 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2018

Bibliographical note

© The Author 2017. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the British Society for Rheumatology. All rights reserved. For Permissions, please email:


  • Adult
  • Antirheumatic Agents/administration & dosage
  • Biological Products/administration & dosage
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Female
  • Glucocorticoids/therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Infection/chemically induced
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic/drug therapy
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Rituximab/administration & dosage
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome
  • United Kingdom


Dive into the research topics of 'Short-term efficacy and safety of rituximab therapy in refractory systemic lupus erythematosus: results from the British Isles Lupus Assessment Group Biologics Register'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this