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Briefing Note - rituximab (MabThera)

SMC has accepted rituximab for the treatment of previously untreated patients with follicular lymphoma which has spread (stage III to IV) in combination with chemotherapy. It is restricted to use only by doctors who have expertise in treating lymphoma.

  • Follicular lymphoma is a cancer of the lymphatic system (part of the body’s immune defence against infection).
  • Treatment involves giving anti-cancer drugs to kill the cancer cells (this is called chemotherapy). Rituximab is a type of anti-cancer drug called a monoclonal antibody.
  • Studies have shown that when rituximab was added to two other chemotherapy regimens used in Scotland the treatment was effective for longer than when these were given without rituximab.
  • The addition of rituximab to chemotherapy led however to an increase in the number of side effects, mainly due to lowered white blood cell counts and infection.
  • SMC previously accepted rituximab in combination with cyclophosphamide, vincristine and prednisolone (CVP) chemotherapy for the treatment of previously untreated patients with follicular lymphoma. This new review extends the range of chemotherapy treatments that can be used in combination with rituximab for this condition.
  • SMC accepted rituximab for this broader use in the treatment of follicular lymphoma as it offers reasonable value for money.