Rituxan warning issued after 4 die

Four people with rheumatoid arthritis have died after being treated with Rituxan, says the manufacturer of the rheumatoid arthritis drug.

Four people with rheumatoid arthritis  have died after being treated with Rituxan, says the drug's manufacturer, which has issued safety information about the medication in  conjunction with Health Canada.

None of the deaths caused by a severe  infusion-related reaction occurred among Canadian patients, Hoffmann-La  Roche Ltd. said in a release. 
Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory illness that affects the joints, as well as the eyes, lungs or heart. (iStock)

Rituxan (rituximab) is a medication given by intravenous infusion for people with moderate to severe rheumatoid arthritis and also is used to treat lymphoid tissue and bone marrow cancer.

An infusion reaction can include fever, chills, difficulty breathing, tightness of the chest and-or throat, upset  stomach and rash.

Hoffmann-La Roche says a patient must be closely monitored during and after infusion, especially if the person has a heart  condition.

If a reaction occurs, administration of the drug must be  stopped immediately.

Patients should also be treated prior to Rituxan with a fever-reducing medication such as acetaminophen, an  antihistamine and a steroid, the company advised.

Adverse effects related to the drug should be reported  to Health Canada's Vigilance Program by calling toll-free 1-866-234-2345.

Consumers who require additional information  regarding the use of Rituxan can contact the drug information department at  Hoffmann-La Roche at 1-888-762-4388.