Study: Rituximab as a Treatment for Myasthenia Gravis

A study has recently been conducted that suggests that rituximab may be preferable over traditional treatments for myasthenia gravis. It also concluded that tiuximab is the most effective if it is administered earlier in disease progression. While more research needs to be done, medical professionals are hopeful that this discovery will better the outcomes for those with myasthenia gravis.

About Myasthenia Gravis

Myasthenia gravis (MG) is the most common autoimmune neuromuscular disorder. Those affected experience weakness in the voluntarily controlled muscles. Physical activity worsens the symptoms, whereas periods of rest can improve them. Throughout the world, about 20 of every 100,000 people have MG. It is an autoimmune condition, meaning the body attacks itself, specifically the proteins that are necessary for communication between the brain and muscles. This causes symptoms like drooping eyelids, issues with chewing and swallowing, fatigue and weakness in the skeletal muscles, slurred speech, double vision, and a changed gait. For a small percentage of those with MG, weakness in the chest could lead to life-threatening respiratory issues.

Doctors diagnose this condition through a physical exam, evaluation of patient history, blood tests, and EMGs. Like many rare disorders, a diagnosis is not always easy to obtain. The similarity of symptoms to other conditions often results in a misdiagnosis. After doctors have confirmed that one has MG, treatment consists of steroids, plasmapheresis, or surgery to remove the thymus gland. While there is no cure, some medications can greatly improve symptoms or even induce remission.

About the Study

72 patients were included in this study, and they were divided into three groups: those who were treated with rituximab early in disease progression, those who were treated later in disease progression, and a control group that was treated with conventional immunotherapy.

The patients in the first group, who were treated early, achieved remission in the shortest amount of time of all three groups, with a median time of seven months. In comparison, the group treated with rituximab later achieved remission in 16 months, and those treated with conventional therapy took 11 months.

Not only did the first group achieve the fastest remission, but they also had a lower number of rescue therapy episodes and needed less additional immunotherapy treatment. Adverse events were lower with rituximab as well; only 3% discontinued treatment, compared to 46% of those using conventional treatment.

Researchers have acknowledged that more research needs to be done, specifically a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, but they are very excited by these results. They hope that these findings will be able to better the lives of those with MG.

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