Treatment of severe pemphigus with protein A immunoadsorption, rituximab and intravenous immunoglobulins

I. Shimanovich*, M. Nitschke, C. Rose, J. Grabbe, D. Zillikens

*Corresponding author for this work
87 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Pemphigus is a life-threatening autoimmune blistering disease usually treated with high-dose corticosteroids and other immunosuppressants. However, this regimen may prove inadequate in severe cases and cause dangerous side-effects. While protein A immunoadsorption (PAIA) induces a rapid remission in severe pemphigus, the disease usually recurs once the treatment is stopped. In contrast, anti-CD20 antibody rituximab has a delayed onset of action but may lead to a long-term remission of pemphigus. Objective: To develop a treatment protocol combining the rapid remission induced by PAIA with the positive long-term effects of rituximab. Patients and methods: Five patients with pemphigus vulgaris and two patients with pemphigus foliaceus were treated with a combination of PAIA, rituximab and conventional immunosuppressants. Patients who failed to respond to this therapy subsequently received intravenous immunoglobulins (IVIg). Results: All seven patients showed a sharp decline of circulating autoantibody levels and rapid improvement of cutaneous and mucosal lesions within 4 weeks of therapy. Long-term remission was induced in three patients and one further patient showed a partial improvement of his disease. The three remaining patients who could not be weaned off PAIA and remained resistant to rituximab treatment showed a good response to IVIg therapy. Conclusion: The combination of PAIA and rituximab induces a rapid and durable remission in a subset of patients with severe pemphigus. IVIg therapy appears to be a good treatment option for rituximab nonresponders.

Original languageEnglish
JournalBritish Journal of Dermatology
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)382-388
Number of pages7
Publication statusPublished - 02.2008


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