Indian Journal of Dermatology
  Publication of IADVL, WB
  Official organ of AADV
Indexed with Science Citation Index (E) , Web of Science and PubMed
Users online: 1142  
Home About  Editorial Board  Current Issue Archives Online Early Coming Soon Guidelines Subscriptions  e-Alerts    Login  
    Small font sizeDefault font sizeIncrease font size Print this page Email this page

Table of Contents 
Year : 2014  |  Volume : 59  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 416-418
Biosimilars in pemphigus vulgaris

1 Department of Dermatology and Venereology, Dr. D. Y. Patil Medical College, Nerul, Navi Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
2 Department of Dermatology, Dr. D. Y. Patil Hospital, Nerul, Navi Mumbai, Maharashtra, India

Date of Web Publication27-Jun-2014

Correspondence Address:
Nidhi Sharma
Department of Dermatology, Dr. D. Y. Patil Hospital, Nerul, Navi Mumbai, Maharashtra
Login to access the Email id

Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0019-5154.135513

Rights and Permissions

How to cite this article:
Patil S, Sharma N, Godse K, Nadkarni N. Biosimilars in pemphigus vulgaris. Indian J Dermatol 2014;59:416-8

How to cite this URL:
Patil S, Sharma N, Godse K, Nadkarni N. Biosimilars in pemphigus vulgaris. Indian J Dermatol [serial online] 2014 [cited 2019 Sep 16];59:416-8. Available from:


Pemphigus is a chronic autoimmune blistering disease affecting both the skin and mucous membranes. Until recently, steroids were the mainstay of therapy. Although undoubtedly effective, the side-effects of this drug made a search for alternative or supplementary therapies mandatory. Pulse therapy with steroids, [1] antimetabolites and intravenous immune globulins [2] were some of the therapeutic alternatives introduced in recent years.

Rituximab, a biological, was also given to certain refractory patients with good results. It is a chimeric monoclonal antibody against the protein CD20, a B-cell specific antigen and is given in a dose of 375 mg/m 2 . Various treatment protocols are advised. [3] However, the cost of the original rituximab formulation has made it unaffordable to the vast majority of Indian patients. The advent of the concept of "biosimilars" has alleviated this problem to a certain extent. [4]
"A biosimilar is a biological product that is highly similar to a US-licensed reference biological product with no clinically meaningful differences between the biological product and the reference product". [5] They are similar but not identical unlike generic molecules. Hence they can be used without concern to patent issues. With time, as patency of original product will expire, cheaper biosimilars will be increasingly used and this will obviously decrease the costs for the patient.

We gave rituximab cycles to five female patients with an average age 37.8 years and average duration of the disease 34.8 months. All these patients were shifted from conventional therapy to rituximab either due to failure of conventional therapy or side effects.

Therapy was given in an intensive care setup with proper monitoring. Patients were evaluated periodically by a hemato oncologist for serious side-effects.

Two patients received one cycle of rituximab according to lymphoma protocol (4 doses of 375 mg/m 2 at weekly intervals for 4 weeks) and other three patients received low dose rituximab [6] (2 doses of 375 mg/m 2 at 2-weekly intervals), as they were not affording. After rituximab, two of these patients were maintained on oral cyclophosphamide 50 mg, while the other three were started on oral mycophenolate mofetil for a period of 6 months to 1 year. The details of the individual patients are shown in the accompanying table [Table 1].
Table 1: Details of the patients recieving Rituximab

Click here to view

It can be seen that all patients who received 4 doses showed complete resolution as defined by the criteria of the International Pemphigus committee. [7] Anti-desmoglein levels were done in one patient, which thus showed decreased levels over a period of 8 months. The skin lesions started healing after the first cycle itself and systemic problems such as pain, malaise and fever also disappeared. All the lesions healed at the end of therapy and have not relapsed. The longest follow-up has been of 2 years. All the patients have achieved complete remission and time to disease control was three to 5 months. This has been associated with a significant improvement of the quality-of-life in these patients. In fact, patient number 2 is now pregnant (7 MA) and the pregnancy is proceeding uneventfully with no relapse of skin lesions.

As far as side-effects are concerned, several have mentioned in the literature, [7] including infusion reactions, opportunistic infections and possible induction of malignancy. In our patients, however, except for mild transfusion associated reactions, the treatment was well-tolerated. These did not necessitate cessation of the drug.

Our study had a few limitations. Our sample size was small. We had no control group where patients were given standard therapy. We did not standardize the dose. Moreover, our patients were only those who could afford the cost of therapy (each cycle of the biosimilar costs Rs. 65,000/). Our follow-up period is not adequate enough to conclude with confidence that rituximab can induce long-term remissions.

We would like to conclude that biosimilars of rituximab could be the future in pemphigus vulgaris, especially in a country like India, instead of biologicals. The latter cannot be given to the overwhelming majority of patients because of financial constraints.

   References Top

1.Pasricha JS, Poonam. Current regimen of pulse therapy for pemphigus: Minor modifications, improved results. Indian J Dermatol Venereol Leprol 2008;74:217-21.  Back to cited text no. 1
[PUBMED]  Medknow Journal  
2.Ahmed AR, Spigelman Z, Cavacini LA, Posner MR. Treatment of pemphigus vulgaris with rituximab and intravenous immune globulin. N Engl J Med 2006;355:1772-9.  Back to cited text no. 2
3.Kanwar AJ, Vinay K. Rituximab in pemphigus. Indian J Dermatol Venereol Leprol 2012;78:671-6.  Back to cited text no. 3
[PUBMED]  Medknow Journal  
4.FDA. Drugs approvals and databases. Drugs@FDA glossary of terms. Availablefrom: on June 15, 2012.   Back to cited text no. 4
5.Grillo-López AJ. Rituximab: An insider's historical perspective. Semin Oncol 2000;27:9-16.  Back to cited text no. 5
6.Horváth B, Huizinga J, Pas HH, Mulder AB, Jonkman MF. Low-dose rituximab is effective in pemphigus. Br J Dermatol 2012;166:405-12.  Back to cited text no. 6
7.Carr DR, Heffernan MP. Innovative uses of rituximab in dermatology. Dermatol Clin 2010;28:547-57.  Back to cited text no. 7


  [Table 1]

This article has been cited by
1 Rituximab
Reactions Weekly. 2014; 1515(1): 161
[Pubmed] | [DOI]


Print this article  Email this article
    Similar in PUBMED
   Search Pubmed for
   Search in Google Scholar for
    Article in PDF (412 KB)
    Citation Manager
    Access Statistics
    Reader Comments
    Email Alert *
    Add to My List *
* Registration required (free)  

    Article Tables

 Article Access Statistics
    PDF Downloaded147    
    Comments [Add]    
    Cited by others 1    

Recommend this journal