Rituximab in intractable ocular lesions of Behcet’s disease; randomized single-blind control study (pilot study)

Abstract: Ocular lesions, the main morbidity of Behcet’s disease (BD), are the most difficult to treat. The aim of this study was to evaluate the efficacy of rituximab. Methods: Inclusion criteria were retinal vasculitis and edema, resistant to cytotoxic drugs. Twenty patients were randomized to a rituximab group (RG) or cytotoxic combination therapy group (CCTG). Rituximab was given in two 1000-mg courses (15-day interval). Subjects received methotrexate (15 mg/weekly) with prednisolone (0.5 mg/kg per day). The CCTG received pulse cyclophosphamide (1000 mg/monthly), azathioprine (2–3 mg/kg per day) and prednisolone (0.5 mg/kg per day). The primary endpoint was the overall state of patients’ eyes and the Total Adjusted Disease Activity Index (TADAI). Secondary endpoints were: visual acuity (VA), posterior uveitis (PU), and retinal vasculitis (RV). The baseline data were compared at 6 months by paired sample t-test and analysis of variance. Results: TADAI improved significantly in the RG (t = 3.340, P = 0.009), but not in the CCTG (t = 2.241, P = 0.052). For secondary endpoints (RG/CCTG), the mean VA improved in two patients versus three (2/3), remained unchanged in 1/1, and worsened in 7/6 patients. The mean PU improved significantly in the RG (t = 3.943, P = 0.001), not in the CCTG (t = 2.371, P = 0.028). RV improved, but not statistically (t = 2.027, P = 0.057 vs. t = 1.045, P = 0.31). Edema of retina, disc and macula improved significantly in both, but much better for the RG (t = 2.781, P = 0.012 vs. t = 2.707, P = 0.014). Conclusion: Rituximab was efficient in severe ocular manifestations of BD, TADAI improved significantly after 6 months with rituximab, but not with CCT. Key words: Behcet’s disease, ocular lesions, rituximab.

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