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Abstract

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. PATIENTS AND METHODS
  4. RESULTS
  5. DISCUSSION
  6. AUTHOR CONTRIBUTIONS
  7. ROLE OF THE STUDY SPONSOR
  8. REFERENCES

Objective

For patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), yearly influenza vaccination is recommended. However, its efficacy in patients treated with rituximab is unknown. The objectives of this study were to investigate the efficacy of influenza vaccination in RA patients treated with rituximab and to investigate the duration of the possible suppression of the humoral immune response following rituximab treatment. We also undertook to assess the safety of influenza vaccination and the effects of previous influenza vaccination.

Methods

Trivalent influenza subunit vaccine was administered to 23 RA patients who had received rituximab (4–8 weeks after rituximab for 11 patients [the early rituximab subgroup] and 6–10 months after rituximab for 12 patients [the late rituximab subgroup]), 20 RA patients receiving methotrexate (MTX), and 29 healthy controls. Levels of antibodies against the 3 vaccine strains were measured before and 28 days after vaccination using hemagglutination inhibition assay. The Disease Activity Score in 28 joints (DAS28) was used to assess RA activity.

Results

Following vaccination, geometric mean titers (GMTs) of antiinfluenza antibodies significantly increased for all influenza strains in the MTX-treated group and in healthy controls, but for no strains in the rituximab-treated group. However, in the late rituximab subgroup, a rise in GMT for the A/H3N2 and A/H1N1 strains was demonstrated, in the absence of a repopulation of CD19+ cells at the time of vaccination. Seroconversion and seroprotection occurred less often in the rituximab-treated group than in the MTX-treated group for the A/H3N2 and A/H1N1 strains, while seroprotection occurred less often in the rituximab-treated group than in the healthy controls for the A/H1N1 strain. Compared with unvaccinated patients in the rituximab-treated group, previously vaccinated patients in the rituximab-treated group had higher pre- and postvaccination GMTs for the A/H1N1 strain. The DAS28 did not change after vaccination.

Conclusion

Rituximab reduces humoral responses following influenza vaccination in RA patients, with a modestly restored response 6–10 months after rituximab administration. Previous influenza vaccination in rituximab-treated patients increases pre- and postvaccination titers. RA activity was not influenced.

Patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) are considered immunocompromised and at increased risk of infection (1). Therefore, although the exact prevalence, morbidity, and mortality of influenza in patients with RA are unknown, yearly influenza vaccination is recommended (2).

Influenza vaccination is safe and results in protective levels of antiinfluenza antibodies in most RA patients, even when they are treated with prednisone, disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs), or tumor necrosis factor α–blocking agents (3, 4). A growing number of RA patients are being treated with rituximab, depleting B cells for 6–9 months. Theoretically, humoral responses to neoantigens cannot be elicited during B cell depletion. Antiinfluenza antibody response after influenza vaccination has been shown to be blunted in RA patients treated with rituximab (5, 6). However, the exact level and duration of suppression of the humoral immune response and the influence of previous influenza vaccination on antibody response after treatment with rituximab remain unclear.

In order to make recommendations for the usefulness and timing of influenza vaccination in RA patients treated with rituximab, we investigated humoral responses in RA patients following vaccination with trivalent subunit influenza vaccine 4–8 weeks or 6–10 months after treatment with rituximab. The responses were compared with responses in RA patients treated with methotrexate (MTX) and with responses in healthy controls. In addition, the influence of previous influenza vaccination on antibody response and the safety of influenza vaccination were assessed.

PATIENTS AND METHODS

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. PATIENTS AND METHODS
  4. RESULTS
  5. DISCUSSION
  6. AUTHOR CONTRIBUTIONS
  7. ROLE OF THE STUDY SPONSOR
  8. REFERENCES

Patients and healthy controls.

Patients had to fulfill the American College of Rheumatology (formerly, the American Rheumatism Association) 1987 revised criteria for the classification of RA (7). Two groups of RA patients were defined. The first group of RA patients (the rituximab group) received influenza vaccination either 4–8 weeks after treatment with rituximab (the early rituximab subgroup) or 6–10 months after treatment with rituximab (the late rituximab subgroup). Rituximab was administered intravenously (IV) in 2 cycles of 1,000 mg with 100 mg IV methylprednisolone, except for 1 patient who instead received 4 cycles of 375 mg/m2 based on a protocol for concomitant mixed cryoglobulinemia. The second group (the MTX group) consisted of RA patients who were treated with MTX at a minimum dosage of 10 mg/week, eventually with additional DMARDs. Health care workers served as healthy controls. Patients in the rituximab group were recruited in all 4 participating Dutch university medical centers. RA patients receiving MTX and healthy controls were recruited from the University Medical Center Groningen. Exclusion criteria were no informed consent, age <18 years, malignancy, pregnancy, or known allergy to or former severe reaction following vaccination with trivalent influenza subunit vaccine.

Vaccine.

We used trivalent influenza subunit vaccine (Influvac 2007–2008; Solvay Pharmaceuticals, Weesp, The Netherlands) containing purified hemagglutinin and neuramidase of the following strains: A/Wisconsin/67/2005 (H3N2)–like strain (A/H3N2 strain), A/Solomon Islands/3/2006 (H1N1)–like strain (A/H1N1 strain), and B/Malaysia/2506/2004-like strain (B strain).

Procedures.

Patients and healthy controls received the influenza vaccine intramuscularly from October 2007 until January 2008. Immediately before and 28 ± 3 days (mean ± SD) after vaccination, blood was drawn for measurement of CD19+ cell count, C-reactive protein level, erythrocyte sedimentation rate, and antiinfluenza antibodies. The Disease Activity Score in 28 joints (DAS28) (8) was recorded before and 7 and 28 days after vaccination. Information on previous influenza vaccination was obtained from all participants, and adverse effects occurring in the first 7 days postvaccination were recorded. The study was approved by the ethics committees of all participating centers.

Hemagglutination inhibition assay (HIA).

The HIA was used for the detection of antiinfluenza antibodies. HIAs were performed with guinea pig erythrocytes in accordance with standard procedures (9). The following parameters for efficacy of vaccination based on antiinfluenza antibody response were evaluated: geometric mean titer (GMT), fold increase in titer, ≥4-fold titer rise resulting in a postvaccination level of ≥40 (seroconversion), and titer rise to ≥40 (seroprotection). HIA titers ≥40 are generally considered to be protective in healthy adults (10).

Statistical analysis.

All other data are presented as the median and range, except for GMTs, which are shown as the mean ± SD. Data were analyzed using SPSS 16.0 for Windows (SPSS, Chicago, IL). Analysis of variance, Student's t-test with Bonferroni correction, the Kruskal-Wallis test, Friedman's test, Wilcoxon's signed rank test, the Mann-Whitney U test, the chi-square test, Fisher's exact test, and Spearman's rank correlation were used where appropriate. P values less than 0.05 were considered significant.

RESULTS

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. PATIENTS AND METHODS
  4. RESULTS
  5. DISCUSSION
  6. AUTHOR CONTRIBUTIONS
  7. ROLE OF THE STUDY SPONSOR
  8. REFERENCES

Patient and control characteristics.

As shown in Table 1, there were 23 RA patients in the rituximab group (11 in the early rituximab subgroup and 12 in the late rituximab subgroup), 20 RA patients in the MTX group, and 29 healthy controls. The mean age of patients in the rituximab group did not differ significantly from that in the MTX group (P = 0.477) but was higher than that in the healthy control group (P = 0.004). Patients in the rituximab group had higher baseline DAS28 scores than patients in the MTX group (P = 0.001) and lower B cell counts than patients in the MTX group and healthy controls (both P < 0.001).

Table 1. Characteristics at baseline of the RA patients treated with rituximab, the RA patients treated with MTX, and the healthy controls*
 Rituximab group (n = 23)MTX group (n = 20)Healthy controls (n = 29)
  • *

    RA = rheumatoid arthritis; MTX = methotrexate; NA = not applicable; DMARDs = disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs.

  • P = 0.004 versus healthy controls.

  • n = 10.

  • §

    n = 15.

  • P < 0.001 versus MTX group.

  • #

    P < 0.001 versus MTX group and versus healthy controls.

Age, mean ± SD years55.5 ± 7.657.1 ± 6.746.5 ± 12.5
No. (%) women/no. (%) men16 (70)/7 (30)11 (55)/9 (45)23 (79)/6 (21)
Received influenza vaccination 2006–2007, no. (%)12 (52)10 (50)21 (72)
Duration of RA, median (range) years13.8 (1.1 to 40)8.7 (0.3 to 21)NA
MTX dosage, median (range) mg/week17.5 (10 to 25)16.3 (10 to 25)NA
Prednisone dosage, median (range) mg/day8.75 (3.8 to 40)§0 (0 to 0)NA
Taking DMARDs, no. (%)   
 Azathioprine1 (4)NA
 Sulfasalazine1 (5)NA
 Leflunomide1 (5)NA
Interval before vaccination, no. (%) 4–8 weeks after  rituximab/no. (%) 6–10 months after rituximab11 (48)/12 (52)NANA
Previous rituximab cycles, no. (%)   
 011 (48)NANA
 15 (22)NANA
 26 (26)NANA
 30 (0)NANA
 41 (4)NANA
CD19+ cells × 109/liter, median (range)0 (0 to 0.09)#0.16 (0 to 0.24)0.25 (0.09 to 0.44)

Efficacy of influenza vaccination as determined by GMT (Table 2).

As expected, the GMTs of antibodies against the A/H3N2 and B strains prior to vaccination were higher in healthy controls (P = 0.002 and P = 0.008, respectively, versus the rituximab and MTX groups combined), since more healthy controls had received an influenza vaccination in the 2006–2007 season. Compared with GMTs before vaccination, GMTs following vaccination increased for all 3 influenza strains both in the healthy controls (P = 0.001 for the A/H3N2 strain, P < 0.001 for the A/H1N1 strain, P < 0.001 for the B strain) and in the MTX group (P < 0.001 for the A/H3N2 strain, P < 0.001 for the A/H1N1 strain, P = 0.022 for the B strain). In contrast, no significant increase in GMT after vaccination was found in the rituximab group as a whole. Postvaccination titers were higher for all 3 strains in the healthy controls and for the A/H3N2 and A/H1N1 strains in the MTX group than in the rituximab group. Compared with the rituximab group, the fold increase in titer was larger in the healthy controls for the A/H1N1 strain (P = 0.001) and the B strain (P = 0.030) and larger in the MTX group for the A/H3N2 and A/H1N1 strains (both P < 0.001).

Table 2. GMTs and fold increase in GMT for influenza A/H3N2, A/H1N1, and B strains in the study subjects before and after administration of trivalent influenza subunit vaccine*
 Healthy controls (n = 29)MTX group (n = 20)Rituximab group (n = 23)Rituximab subgroups
Early (n = 11)Late (n = 12)
  • *

    Patients in the rituximab group received influenza vaccination either 4–8 weeks after treatment with rituximab (the early rituximab subgroup) or 6–10 months after treatment with rituximab (the late rituximab subgroup). GMT = geometric mean titer.

  • P < 0.05 versus methotrexate (MTX) group and versus rituximab group.

  • P < 0.05 versus prevaccination titer.

  • §

    P < 0.05 versus rituximab group.

  • P < 0.05 versus early rituximab subgroup.

GMT, mean ± SD     
 A/H3N2 strain     
  Before27.6 ± 2.913.9 ± 2.813.1 ± 2.310.0 ± 1.716.8 ± 2.7
  After44.5 ± 2.2§34.2 ± 1.9§14.4 ± 2.59.4 ± 2.121.2 ± 2.6
 A/H1N1 strain     
  Before27.0 ± 3.014.6 ± 2.515.0 ± 2.011.3 ± 1.819.4 ± 2.0
  After73.6 ± 2.2§47.6 ± 2.8§18.5 ± 2.710.0 ± 1.632.7 ± 2.8
 B strain     
  Before15.7 ± 2.67.7 ± 1.98.9 ± 2.16.0 ± 1.612.6 ± 2.3
  After29.7 ± 2.5§13.4 ± 2.510.9 ± 2.46.6 ± 1.617.3 ± 2.5
Fold increase, median (range)     
 A/H3N2 strain1.4 (−1.4 to 16)2 (1 to 11.3)§1 (−2 to 2)1 (−2 to 2)1 (−1.4 to 2)
 A/H1N1 strain2 (−1.4 to 128)§4 (1 to 16)§1 (−2 to 8)1 (−2 to 1.4)1.2 (−1.3 to 8)
 B strain1.4 (−1.4 to 32)§1 (−1.4 to 16)1 (−2 to 5.7)1 (−1.4 to 2)1 (−2 to 5.7)

GMT rose after vaccination in the late rituximab subgroup for the A/H3N2 strain (P = 0.040) and the A/H1N1 strain (P = 0.042), but not in the early rituximab subgroup, resulting in higher postvaccination GMT (P = 0.040 for the A/H3N2 strain, P = 0.003 for the A/H1N1 strain, P = 0.007 for the B strain) and larger fold increase (P = 0.041 for the A/H3N2 strain, P = 0.043 for the A/H1N1 strain) in the late rituximab subgroup, thereby indicating some recovery of the humoral immune response 6–10 months after treatment with rituximab. At baseline, the peripheral blood CD19+ cell count was comparable for the early and late rituximab subgroups (median [range] 0 × 109/liter [0 to 0.01] versus 0 × 109/liter [0 to 0.08], respectively; P = 0.072). However, 28 days after vaccination, significantly more B cells were present in the late rituximab subgroup than in the early rituximab subgroup (median [range] 0.01 × 109/liter [0 to 0.10] versus 0 × 109/liter [0 to 0]; P = 0.004).

Seroconversion.

Seroconversion occurred more often in the MTX group than in the rituximab group for the A/H3N2 strain (P = 0.011) and the A/H1N1 strain (P = 0.020). Seroconversion for any of the 3 influenza strains occurred in only 3 patients in the rituximab group (all for the A/H1N1 strain), and all were in the late rituximab subgroup.

Seroprotection.

Compared with the rituximab group, seroprotection was achieved more often for the A/H1N1 strain (P = 0.025) in the healthy controls and for the A/H3N2 strain (P = 0.020) and the A/H1N1 strain (P = 0.020) in the MTX group (Figure 1). The percentage of persons with a postvaccination titer ≥40 irrespective of the prevaccination titer was higher in the healthy controls than in the rituximab group for the A/H3N2 strain (P < 0.001), the A/H1N1 strain (P < 0.001), and the B strain (P = 0.020), and higher in the MTX group than in the rituximab group for the A/H3N2 strain (P = 0.025) and the A/H1N1 strain (P = 0.010). Seroprotection in the rituximab group occurred in only 6 patients (5 in the late rituximab subgroup versus 1 in the early rituximab subgroup; P = 0.108).

thumbnail image

Figure 1. Percentage of patients with antiinfluenza titers ≥40 as determined by hemagglutination inhibition assay for influenza A/H3N2 strain (A), A/H1N1 strain (B), and B strain (C) after vaccination with trivalent influenza subunit vaccine, in healthy controls (HC) (n = 29), patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) treated with methotrexate (MTX) (n = 20), and RA patients treated with rituximab (RTX) (n = 23). Solid bars represent prevaccination titer ≥40; open bars represent postvaccination titer ≥40 in patients with a prevaccination titer <40 (seroprotection).

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Impact of previous vaccination.

Compared with previously unvaccinated healthy controls, healthy controls vaccinated the year before showed higher baseline GMT for the A/H3N2 strain (mean ± SD 41.8 ± 1.8 versus 13.5 ± 2.9; P = 0.018). Conversely, the fold increase in titer following vaccination in the previously vaccinated healthy controls was lower than that in the unvaccinated healthy controls for the A/H3N2 strain (median 1 [range −1.4 to 8] versus 2.8 [range 1 to 16]; P = 0.003) and the B strain (median 1.4 [range −1.4 to 8] versus 2.8 [range 1 to 32]; P = 0.023). In the MTX group, higher baseline GMTs in vaccinated patients than in unvaccinated patients were shown for the A/H1N1 strain (mean ± SD 31.8 ± 2.1 versus 9.7 ± 2.7; P = 0.019) and the B strain (mean ± SD 10.4 ± 2.0 versus 5.7 ± 1.6; P = 0.015). In the MTX group, there was a lower fold increase in the previously vaccinated patients than in the unvaccinated patients for the A/H3N2 strain (median 1.4 [range 1 to 4] versus 4 [range 2 to 11.3]; P = 0.003), the A/H1N1 strain (median 2 [range 1 to 5.7] versus 6.7 [range 1 to 16]; P = 0.018), and the B strain (median 1 [range −1.4 to 1] versus 3.4 [range 1 to 16]; P = 0.001). In the rituximab group, compared with patients who were not previously vaccinated, patients who were previously vaccinated had higher baseline antibody titers against the A/H1N1 strain (mean ± SD 19.4 ± 1.8 versus 11.3 ± 2.0; P = 0.036) as well as higher postvaccination antibody titers against the A/H1N1 strain (mean ± SD 30.8 ± 2.6 versus 10.7 ± 2.0; P = 0.007).

Seroconversion occurred more often for the A/H3N2 strain in the unvaccinated MTX group than in the vaccinated MTX group (50% versus 0%; P = 0.016), but not for the healthy controls or the rituximab group for any of the influenza strains (data not shown).

Previously unvaccinated healthy controls more often developed seroprotection for the influenza B strain than did previously vaccinated healthy controls (75% versus 9.5%; P = 0.001). Previously unvaccinated patients in the MTX group developed seroprotection for strain A/H3N2 (70% versus 20%; P = 0.035) and strain B (40% versus 0%; P = 0.043) more frequently than patients vaccinated the year before. However, the number of patients with a postvaccination titer ≥40, irrespective of prevaccination titer, did not differ between previously vaccinated and unvaccinated patients in the rituximab group (data not shown).

Correlations between B cell numbers and vaccination responses.

In the rituximab group, CD19+ B cells tended to increase 4 weeks after vaccination (from median 0 × 109/liter [range 0 to 0.08] to 0 × 109/liter [range 0 to 0.10]; P = 0.058) due to regeneration of B cells in the late rituximab subgroup; B cells in the late rituximab subgroup increased following vaccination (from median 0 × 109/liter [range 0 to 0.08] to 0.01 × 109/liter [range 0 to 0.10]; P = 0.031) in contrast to B cells in the early rituximab subgroup (from median 0 × 109/liter [range 0 to 0.01] to 0 × 109/liter [range 0 to 0]; P = 0.317). However, in both the early and late rituximab subgroups, there were no correlations between B cell count and prevaccination GMT, postvaccination GMT, fold increase in GMT, rates of seroconversion, and rates of seroprotection (data not shown).

Safety of vaccination—side effects and RA activity.

There were no differences between the 3 groups in the occurrence of side effects. RA activity, assessed with the DAS28 prior to and 7 and 28 days after vaccination, was not influenced by influenza vaccination in either the MTX group (median 3.04 [range 0.77 to 5.17] versus 2.93 [range 0.49 to 3.71] versus 2.59 [range 1.00 to 4.22], respectively; P = 0.287) or the rituximab group (median 3.95 [range 2.15 to 5.71] versus 3.97 [range 2.15 to 6.26] versus 4.02 [range 2.04 to 6.77], respectively; P = 0.834).

DISCUSSION

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. PATIENTS AND METHODS
  4. RESULTS
  5. DISCUSSION
  6. AUTHOR CONTRIBUTIONS
  7. ROLE OF THE STUDY SPONSOR
  8. REFERENCES

The present study clearly shows that humoral responses to influenza subunit vaccine in RA patients receiving rituximab are severely hampered compared with those in RA patients receiving MTX and compared with those in healthy controls. This holds true for almost all outcomes. Our results are in line with those from a study in 4 RA patients, which evaluated humoral responses following influenza vaccination 84 days after treatment with rituximab (6). A larger study by Oren et al that included 14 RA patients receiving rituximab showed only a lower GMT for influenza B strain and reduced rates of achieving a combined end point of seroconversion and seroprotection for influenza A/H3N2 strain in patients receiving rituximab, compared with 29 RA patients receiving various DMARDs and 21 healthy controls (5). The discrepancy between our results and those of Oren et al might be explained by the larger time span between treatment with rituximab and influenza vaccination in the study by Oren et al (18 months, versus 10 months in our late rituximab subgroup); further, only 7 patients received influenza vaccination in the first 6 months after rituximab in the study by Oren et al.

The hampered response seems temporary since a significant rise in GMT after influenza vaccination in the late rituximab subgroup was found, while there was no increase in GMT in the early rituximab subgroup. Moreover, the only 3 cases of seroconversion in the rituximab group occurred in the late rituximab subgroup, and of the 6 cases of seroprotection in the rituximab group, 5 occurred in the late rituximab subgroup.

Although B cells are required for the development of humoral immune responses to neoantigens, and depletion of B cells following rituximab would be expected to reduce humoral immune responses to neoantigens, no correlation could be demonstrated between B cell count and the humoral responses following influenza vaccination in the 3 groups studied. This might be attributed to insufficient sensitivity of the standard quantitative assessment of B cells (the lowest measurable B cell count being 0.01 × 109/liter) (11). Responders to influenza vaccination in the late rituximab subgroup probably already achieved some level of B cell repopulation that was undetectable using standard methods. Another explanation could be that the number of B cells in lymphoid tissues (i.e., sites where vaccine-mediated immune responses are initiated) is not correctly reflected by the peripheral blood B cell numbers; CD19+CD20− B cells have been shown to remain in the bone marrow after 2 cycles of rituximab in RA patients (12).

Yearly repeated influenza vaccination leads to higher prevaccination antiinfluenza antibody titers during the following year (13) and to a reduction in mortality (14). In the current study we indeed found higher prevaccination GMT and lower fold increase in titer in previously vaccinated healthy controls and patients in the MTX group compared with previously unvaccinated healthy controls and patients in the MTX group. However, in addition to a higher prevaccination titer for the A/H1N1 strain, previously vaccinated patients in the rituximab group had a higher postvaccination titer. Notably, peripheral blood B cells after recovery from rituximab-induced B cell depletion mainly consist of immature and naive B cells, and low numbers of B cells remain for up to 2 years (15, 16). Our findings may therefore point to the persistence of memory B cells in compartments other than the peripheral blood that are capable of responding to the vaccine, and indicate that repeated yearly vaccination could be of additional value in achieving adequate levels of antiinfluenza antibodies following influenza vaccination of RA patients treated with rituximab.

Influenza vaccination was safe. Side effects in the study groups were comparable, and influenza vaccination did not increase RA activity.

Finally, one should keep in mind that the correlates of protection for influenza following influenza vaccination in immunocompromised patients are not well defined. Antiinfluenza titers ≥40 determined by HIA are considered protective, and 50% of persons with a titer of 28 are estimated to be protected; however, this has only been validated in young healthy adults (10). Moreover, cellular immune responses have been shown to be of major importance in vaccination-mediated protection against influenza (17), and these are affected by rituximab as well. Since even titers <28 might provide some level of protection, even small increases in antiinfluenza titer can be of clinical relevance. Therefore, the modest rise in titer in the late rituximab subgroup might be valuable.

Our study has some limitations. First, although this is the largest study to evaluate the response to influenza vaccination in RA patients treated with rituximab, the number of patients is still relatively small. However, the results were uniform, and statistical significance was reached for many parameters. Second, the healthy controls were younger than the RA patients, and age is an important factor in influenza vaccination response (2). Since the age of patients in the MTX and rituximab groups was comparable, and HIA titers were significantly higher in the MTX group than in the rituximab group, the difference in HIA titers between healthy controls and patients in the rituximab group was unlikely to be caused by differences in age. Third, although the use of additional DMARDs was not standardized, most of the patients in the rituximab group who had been taking DMARDs were receiving MTX, and only 1 patient was receiving high-dose corticosteroids. In the MTX group, only 2 patients had taken DMARDs other than MTX. Therefore, we do not believe that the unrestricted use of DMARDs influenced the study outcome. Moreover, the allowance of additional DMARDs offers the possibility to extrapolate our data to daily practice, where use of additional DMARDs is common. The difference in corticosteroid use between the MTX and rituximab groups probably did not change the outcome, since even prednisone at a dosage of >7.5 mg/day has been shown not to affect the humoral response following influenza vaccination in RA patients (3, 4).

In conclusion, this study shows a severely hampered humoral immune response to trivalent subunit influenza vaccine in RA patients treated with rituximab compared with RA patients receiving MTX and compared with healthy controls. This response was slightly restored but still reduced 6–10 months after rituximab treatment. Previously vaccinated patients in the rituximab group achieved higher antiinfluenza titers following influenza vaccination for the A/H1N1 strain than did patients in the rituximab group who were not previously vaccinated. We recommend yearly influenza vaccination for RA patients. For those patients who start rituximab treatment, preemptive influenza vaccination should be considered.

AUTHOR CONTRIBUTIONS

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. PATIENTS AND METHODS
  4. RESULTS
  5. DISCUSSION
  6. AUTHOR CONTRIBUTIONS
  7. ROLE OF THE STUDY SPONSOR
  8. REFERENCES

All authors were involved in drafting the article or revising it critically for important intellectual content, and all authors approved the final version to be published. Dr. van Assen had full access to all of the data in the study and takes responsibility for the integrity of the data and the accuracy of the data analysis.

Study conception and design. Van Assen, Voskuyl, de Haan, Kallenberg, Bijl.

Acquisition of data. Van Assen, Holvast, Posthumus, van Leeuwen, Voskuyl, Blom, Risselada, de Haan, Westra, Bijl.

Analysis and interpretation of data. Van Assen, Holvast, Benne, Posthumus, de Haan, Westra, Bijl.

ROLE OF THE STUDY SPONSOR

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. PATIENTS AND METHODS
  4. RESULTS
  5. DISCUSSION
  6. AUTHOR CONTRIBUTIONS
  7. ROLE OF THE STUDY SPONSOR
  8. REFERENCES

Roche Nederland and Solvay Pharmaceuticals provided financial support for the study. Both sponsors of the study had no role in study design, data collection, data analysis, and writing of the manuscript. Submission was independent of the approval of the study by the sponsors.

REFERENCES

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. PATIENTS AND METHODS
  4. RESULTS
  5. DISCUSSION
  6. AUTHOR CONTRIBUTIONS
  7. ROLE OF THE STUDY SPONSOR
  8. REFERENCES
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