Side Effects of Rituximab

In clinical studies of rituximab, side effects that were reported the most often included fever, chills, and infections. Although most people do not experience any problems with this medication, serious reactions can occur. Notify your healthcare provider immediately if you experience difficulty breathing, a rash of any kind, decreased urination, or any other potentially dangerous symptoms.

An Introduction to Rituximab Side Effects

Just like any medicine, rituximab (Rituxan®) can cause side effects. However, not everyone who uses the medication will have problems. In fact, most people tolerate it quite well. If side effects do occur, in most cases, they are minor and either require no treatment or are treated easily by you or your healthcare provider. Serious side effects have been reported.
(This article covers many, but not all, of the possible side effects with rituximab. Your healthcare provider can discuss a more complete list with you.)

Side Effects of Rituximab to Report

Some rituximab side effects, although occurring infrequently, are potentially serious -- even life-threatening -- and should be reported to your healthcare provider. These include but are not limited to:
  • Anything that seems unusual, unpleasant, or just "not right" during your infusion, as this may be a sign of an infusion reaction
  • A rash of any sort -- in rare cases, rituximab can cause serious skin reactions
  • Signs or symptoms of progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML), such as:
    • Headaches
    • Coordination problems
    • Speech difficulties
    • Memory loss
  • Signs of a tear (perforation) of the stomach or intestines, such as:
    • A sudden change in bowel habits
    • Fever
    • Abdominal pain (stomach pain)
  • Symptoms of an infection, such as a cough, chills, fever, or weakness
  • An irregular heart rhythm (arrhythmia)
  • Decreased urine production, which may be a sign of kidney damage
  • Severe abdominal pain (stomach pain), constipation, or vomiting, which may be signs of a bowel obstruction.
Infusion reactions are common with rituximab. However, appropriate "premedication" can help limit the chance and severity of this. Premedication often includes acetaminophen (Tylenol®), an antihistamine, and a steroid. Infusion reactions can range from mild to fatal, and may include the following symptoms:
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