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Arthritis drug can hinder flu shot effectiveness, recent study finds

Category: Infectious Diseases

According to recent laboratory tests, arthritis patients who are being treated with the drug rituximab may face an additional risk of contracting the flu.

The study found that the flu vaccine is safe, but is also ineffective in producing antibodies when administered during the first six months of taking rituximab. Researchers did discover that the vaccine does not make arthritis symptoms worse.

Scientists now recommend that arthritis patients be given flu vaccinations immediately before or several months after undergoing rituximab treatment.

"Individuals who have compromised immune systems, such as with rheumatoid arthritis, are at risk for complications from contracting the flu virus," said lead author Sander van Assen, quoted by Health Day.

"We recommend yearly influenza vaccination for all rheumatoid arthritis patients and pre-emptive vaccination for flu should be considered by those patients who start rituximab treatment," he added.

Researchers found that the new arthritis treatment, which is given in two infusions two weeks apart, depletes B cells on a short-term basis and makes it difficult for patients to develop the antibodies that assist in warding off the flu.

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