Bendamustine and rituximab are both medications used primarily to treat certain types of cancer. Rituximab is prescribed for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, as well as certain patients who have rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Bendamustine is also prescribed for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, as well as chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL).
Rituximab is a biologic antineoplastic agent that works by killing certain types of blood cells, while bendamustine is an alkylating agent that works to destroy cancerous cells and prevent new ones from spreading. Both bendamustine and rituximab are only available in the form of injections to be administered by a doctor or nurse.
Bendamustine is typically administered in cycles. For example, a patient may receive one injection on two consecutive days, followed by a period of time in which the patient does not receive treatment. It typically takes 30 minutes to administer a dose of bendamustine. Those taking rituximab may receive two doses given two weeks apart to treat RA, or once weekly for four to eight weeks to treat cancer. Several hours may be required to administer a dose of this drug.
Patients should be aware of the possible side effects of bendamustine and rituximab. Both of these drugs may cause diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting, along with night sweats. Bendamustine may also result in loss of appetite, weight loss, and stomach pain, as well as stomach, back, or joint pain. Patients taking rituximab have reported fatigue, weight gain, and weakness, as well as numbness, runny nose, and back or muscle pain.
More serious side effects require urgent medical attention. Patients taking bendamustine and rituximab should be aware that they can cause signs of an infection, such as a fever, chills, or sore throat, along with unusual bruising or bleeding. Bendamustine may also cause chest pain, rapid heartbeat, and excessive fatigue. Patients taking rituximab should go to the hospital if they experience joint pain or soreness, tightness in the chest, or pain in the abdominal region.
Before taking bendamustine and rituximab, patients must disclose their other medical conditions, medications, and supplements to avoid a possible interaction. They may be unable to take rituximab if they have a history of viral infections, bowel problems, or kidney problems. Bendamustine may be contraindicated for use by those with an electrolyte imbalance, a weakened immune system, or those who smoke. Neither of these drugs should be used by women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. They may interact with other medicines, including blood pressure drugs, omeprazole, and ciprofloxacin.