JointHealth™ express   November 19, 2012

Good news for Alberta residents with vasculitis

This month, rituximab (Rituxan®) was added to Alberta’s formulary for the treatment of severely active Granulomatosis with Polyangiitis (GPA) or Microscopic Polyangiitis (MPA), which are two types of vasculitis.

This is good news because rituximab is the first biological response modifier (“biologic”) that specifically treats GPA (also known as Wegener’s granulomatosis) and MPA, so adults living with these types of vasculitis now have a treatment option where none in this class of medication existed before. The medication is also covered for those who do not respond well to cyclophosphamide.

Wegener’s granulomatosis and MPA are disorders that cause blood vessel inflammation, or vasculitis. The signs and symptoms of vasculitis vary depending on which blood vessels and organ systems are affected. In GPA and MPA, the immune system can attack the respiratory tract (sinuses, nose, trachea, and lungs), kidneys, eyes, nerves and skin.

Rituximab belongs to the class of medications called “biologics” (short for biologic response modifiers), which target the specific pathways responsible for causing inflammation. It is a kind of monoclonal antibody. Antibodies are proteins produced by the body that bind to another protein called an antigen. Rituximab binds to an antigen on the surface of a particular white blood cell, called B lymphocyte, causing it to die and preventing it from attacking the body’s self. The medication is used in combination with glucocorticoids.

Click here to view the most up-to-date version of ACE's Report Card on provincial formulary reimbursement listings for biologic response modifiers.