Health Canada Issues Health Advisory for Rituxan

In conjunction with drug maker Hoffmann-LaRoche, Health Canada has issued new safety information regarding <"">Rituxan, which is used in the treatment of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL) and rheumatoid arthritis. According to the company, post-market and clinical studies have revealed reports of serious side effects, including abdominal pain, bowel obstruction, and perforation, in Rituxan patients. Most of the reports, including all related fatalities, are from NHL patients who combined chemotherapy with their Rituxan regimen.

In a letter sent earlier this month to health-care professionals, Hoffmann-LaRoche and Health Canada noted that “the pharmacovigilance database for Rituxan indicates that 47 cases of bowel obstruction (9 deaths) and 37 cases of gastrointestinal perforation (4 deaths) have been reported in Rituxan patients, based on an approximately 730,000 cumulative patient exposure.”

Rituxan patients should be aware of any adverse symptoms and consult a physician immediately if they believe the symptoms may be related to use of the drug. Symptoms of bowel obstruction include nausea, vomiting, abdominal swelling, abdominal pain, constipation, or diarrhea. Symptoms of gastrointestinal perforation include sudden onset of abdominal pain (worsened by movement), abdominal tenderness, high fever, chills, nausea, and vomiting.

In the past, Rituxan has been connected with other risks, including hepatitis B reactivation and severe mucocutaneous (skin-related) reactions.

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