Vasculitis without infertility

Submitted by Shelby D Burns Fri 07/16/2010

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Many people who suffer from vasculitis also suffer infertility as a side effect of the principle drug used to treat the condition, cyclophosphamide. Now researchers have reported that Rituximab, a drug used to treat B cell lymphoma and rheumatoid arthritis, can treat vasculitis as well as the traditional drug therapy with less side effect risk. “The reason this is a big deal is that this is a disease where people would come in and be told ‘listen, we are probably going to be able to get on top of your life-threatening disease by using cyclophosphamide, but you are going to have major side effects down the road from this drug,’” said Robert Spiera, MD, an associate attending rheumatologist at Hospital for Special Surgery in New York. “This study provides strong evidence that Rituxan works as well as cyclophosphamide at least in terms of getting patients over that acute hump of being very ill. And, we can treat patients without the likelihood of causing infertility or cancers.” Vasculitis is an inflammation of blood vessels. It can lead to damage in every part of the body, tissues and organs. A particularly severe brand of vasculitis is called Wegener’s granulomatosis. Ninety percent of patients diagnosed with this disease die within three years. While cyclophosphamide will successfully treat the disease it causes a variety of cancers, severe infection, and for women and many men, infertility. In the study, 84 of the 99 (85%) patients who took Rituxan and 81 of the 98 (83%) patients who took cyclophosphamide completed six months of treatment and researchers found the medications were equally as effective in putting patients in remission. “These results show that the Rituxan worked at least as well as cyclophosphamide,” Dr. Spiera said. “If anything there was almost a hint of it maybe looking a little better, and even in the short term, it looked safer. . . It should be considered first-line therapy, especially in women of child bearing potential who have a good chance of losing their fertility.”

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