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FDA Approves Genentech’s Rituxan (Rituximab) for Pemphigus Vulgaris

Genentech, a member of the Roche Group (SIX: RO, ROG; OTCQX: RHHBY), today announced that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved Rituxan®(rituximab) for the treatment of adults with moderate to severe pemphigus vulgaris (PV), a rare, serious, potentially life-threatening condition characterized by progressive painful blistering of the skin and mucous membranes.1

Rituxan is the first biologic therapy approved by the FDA for PV and the first major advancement in the treatment of the disease in more than 60 years. The FDA previously granted Priority Review, Breakthrough Therapy Designation and Orphan Drug Designation to Rituxan for the treatment of PV. With today’s FDA decision, Rituxan is now approved to treat four autoimmune diseases.

“Today’s decision by the FDA provides the first approved treatment option in more than 60 years for patients with pemphigus vulgaris, a potentially life-threatening disease,” said Sandra Horning, M.D., chief medical officer and head of Global Product Development. “We are pleased to offer Rituxan as a new and effective therapy to patients with this serious condition.”

The FDA approval is based on data from the Ritux 3 trial, a Roche-supported, randomized, controlled trial conducted in France that used Roche-manufactured, European Union (EU)-approved rituximab product as the clinical trial material. The study compared the Ritux 3 regimen (EU-approved rituximab product plus short-term corticosteroids [CS]) to CS alone as a first-line treatment in patients with newly diagnosed moderate to severe pemphigus. The primary endpoint of the study was complete remission* at month 24 without the use of steroids for two or more months. Results of the study showed that 90 percent of PV patients treated with the Ritux 3 regimen met the endpoint, compared to 28 percent of PV patients treated with CS alone. These results supported the efficacy of Rituxan in treating patients with moderate to severe PV, while tapering off of CS therapy. These results were published in The Lancet in March 2017.2

Recently an international panel of experts, the International Bullous Disease Consensus Group, provided new recommendations on the diagnosis and management of pemphigus in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.3 Based on existing European treatment guidelines, a Delphi survey process was used to help achieve international expert consensus. The consensus includes the recommendation to use an anti-CD20 monoclonal antibody (Rituxan) and corticosteroids as first line therapy options for moderate to severe pemphigus.

About Pemphigus Vulgaris

Pemphigus vulgaris is an autoimmune blistering disease affecting the skin and mucous membranes.1  This rare, potentially life-threatening condition accounts for up to 80% of cases of pemphigus, a group of autoimmune disorders which affect 30,000 to 40,000 people in the United States.4

 *Complete remission defined as complete epithelialization and absence of new and/or established lesions. 

What autoimmune diseases does Rituxan treat?

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA): with another prescription medicine called methotrexate, to reduce the signs and symptoms of moderate to severe active RA in adults, after treatment with at least one other medicine called a tumor necrosis factor (TNF) antagonist has been used and did not work well enough.

Granulomatosis with Polyangiitis (GPA) (Wegener’s Granulomatosis) and Microscopic Polyangiitis (MPA): with glucocorticoids, to treat GPA and MPA.

Pemphigus vulgaris (PV): to treat adults with moderate to severe PV.

It is not known if Rituxan is safe or effective in children.

Important Side Effect Information 

What is the most important information patients should know about Rituxan? 

Rituxan can cause serious side effects that can lead to death, including: 

  • Infusion Reactions: Infusion reactions are the most common side effect of Rituxan treatment. Serious infusion reactions can happen during an infusion or within 24 hours after an infusion
  • Severe Skin and Mouth Reactions: painful sores or ulcers on skin, lips, or in the mouth; blisters, peeling skin, rash, or pustules
  • Hepatitis B Virus (HBV) Reactivation: If a patient has had hepatitis B or is a carrier of hepatitis B virus, receiving Rituxan could cause the virus to become an active infection again
  • Progressive Multifocal Leukoencephalopathy (PML): a rare, serious brain infection caused by the JC virus

Before receiving Rituxan, patients should tell their healthcare provider if they: 

  • have had a severe infusion reaction to Rituxan in the past
  • currently have or have a history of other medical conditions, especially heart disease
  • have had a severe infection, currently have an infection, or have a weakened immune system
  • have had a recent vaccination or are scheduled to receive vaccinations
  • have taken Rituxan in the past
  • are pregnant or planning to become pregnant. Females who are able to become pregnant should use effective birth control (contraception) during treatment with Rituxan and for 12 months after the last dose of Rituxan
  • are breastfeeding or plan to breastfeed. Patients should not breastfeed during treatment and for at least 6 months after the last dose of Rituxan
  • are taking any medications, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements

What are the possible side effects of Rituxan? 

Rituxan can cause serious and life‐threatening side effects, including:

  • Tumor Lysis Syndrome (TLS): TLS is caused by the fast breakdown of cancer cells. TLS can cause kidney failure and the need for dialysis treatment or may cause an abnormal heart rhythm
  • Serious Infections: Serious infections can happen during and after treatment with Rituxan and can lead to death
  • Heart Problems: Rituxan may cause chest pain and irregular heartbeats, which may need treatment, or a patient’s doctor may decide to stop treatment with Rituxan
  • Kidney Problems: especially if a patient is receiving Rituxan for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL). Doctors should do blood tests to check how well a patient’s kidneys are working
  • Stomach and Serious Bowel Problems That Can Sometimes Lead to Death: Patients should inform their doctor right away if they have any stomach area pain during treatment with Rituxan
  • Low Blood Cell Counts: A doctor may do blood tests during treatment with Rituxan to check a patient’s blood cell counts

 What are the most common side effects during treatment with Rituxan? 

  • Infusion reactions
  • Infections (may include fever, chills)
  • Body aches
  • Tiredness
  • Nausea

Other side effects include:

  • Aching joints during or within hours of receiving an infusion
  • More frequent upper respiratory tract infections

These are not all of the possible side effects with Rituxan. For more information, ask a doctor or pharmacist.

 Contact a doctor for medical advice about side effects. Report side effects to the FDA at (800) FDA1088 or  http://www.fda.gov/medwatch. Patients may also report side effects to Genentech at (888) 8352555.

 Please see the Rituxan Prescribing Information and Medication Guide including Most Serious Side Effects for additional Important Side Effect Information at http://www.rituxan.com.

Genentech and Biogen collaborate on Rituxan in the United States, and Roche markets MabThera in the rest of the world, except Japan, where Rituxan is co-marketed by Chugai and Zenyaku Kogyo Co. Ltd.

About Genentech
Founded more than 40 years ago, Genentech is a leading biotechnology company that discovers, develops, manufactures and commercializes medicines to treat patients with serious and life-threatening medical conditions. The company, a member of the Roche Group, has headquarters in South San Francisco, California. For additional information about the company, please visit http://www.gene.com.

References

1. Medscape. Pemphigus Vulgaris. Available at:  http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1064187-overview. [Last accessed: May 15, 2018]

2. Joly P, et al. First-Line Rituximab Combined with Short-Term Prednisone Versus Prednisone Alone for the Treatment of Pemphigus (Ritux 3): A Prospective, Multicentre, Parallel-Group, Open-Label Randomised Trial. The Lancet. March 22, 2017

3. Murrell DF, et al. Diagnosis and Management of Pemphigus: recommendations by an International Panel of Experts, Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 2018 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaad.2018.02.021 [Article in Press]

4. International Pemphigus & Pemphigoid Foundation. Pemphigus. Available at:  http://www.pemphigus.org/research/clinically-speaking/pemphigus/. [Last accessed: May 15, 2018]

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