1Department of Pharmacy Services, Hartford Hospital, Hartford, CT.
Use of rituximab, a chimeric monoclonal antibody directed at the CD20 antigen, continues to increase in solid organ transplantation (SOT) for several off-label uses. In September 2013, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a Drug Safety Communication to oncology, rheumatology and pharmacy communities outlining a new Boxed Warning for rituximab. Citing 109 cases of fatal hepatitis B virus (HBV) reactivation in persons receiving rituximab therapy with previous or chronic HBV infection documented in their Adverse Event Reporting System (AERS), the FDA recommends screening for HBV serologies in all patients planned to receive rituximab and antiviral prophylaxis in any patient with a positive history of HBV infection. There is a lack of data pertaining to this topic in the SOT population despite an increase in off-label indications. Previous reports suggest patients receiving rituximab, on average, were administered six doses prior to HBV reactivation. Recommendations on prophylaxis, treatment and re-challenging patients with therapy after resolution of reactivation remain unclear. Based on data from the FDA AERS and multiple analyses in oncology, SOT providers utilizing rituximab should adhere to the FDA warnings and recommendations regarding HBV reactivation until further data are available in the SOT population.