Rituximab: Riximyo is the new funded brand

Brand change Active

Rituximab is a biological medicine used to treat a range of conditions including blood cancers, rheumatoid arthritis, and other autoimmune conditions.

On this page

What’s changing?

Two brands of rituximab are funded and your brand may have changed:

  • Riximyo is the newly funded brand. It is funded for people using rituximab for all conditions apart from those with rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Mabthera is the currently funded brand. It remains funded for people using rituximab for rheumatoid arthritis.

The Riximyo brand was available from 1 March 2020

  • From 1 March 2020, both Mabthera and Riximyo were fully funded for people using rituximab
    • All people who start using rituximab after 1 March 2020, apart from those with rheumatoid arthritis, will start on the Riximyo brand.
    • Mabthera will continue to be funded for people currently using this brand who need to finish their course and for people using rituximab for rheumatoid arthritis.
  • From 1 December 2020 onwards
    • Riximyo is fully funded for all people apart from those using rituximab for rheumatoid arthritis.
    • Mabthera is only funded for people with rheumatoid arthritis.

If your current treatment course of rituximab finishes before 1 December 2020, you may be able to complete the course on Mabthera.

Talk to your health care team about when you will start on the new brand of rituximab.

Why is the brand different for patients with rheumatoid arthritis?

There are legal patents in New Zealand which means the Mabthera is the only brand that can be used for patients with rheumatoid arthritis at this time. 

New Zealand clinical experts are supportive of this change

A decision to change the brand of a medicine, especially one as important as rituximab, isn’t taken lightly. Before we made this decision, we sought advice from experts who treat people with rituximab.

They looked at the clinical evidence for biosimilar rituximab and supported PHARMAC’s decision. You can find more details of what was discussed by clinical experts in the full records of those meeting.

Before making this decision, we asked the public for feedback during our consultation. The feedback was supportive of this decision.

Medsafe has approved Riximyo for use in New Zealand

Medsafe, the New Zealand Medicines and Medical Devices Safety Authority, approves medicines for use in New Zealand.

To ensure Riximyo is highly similar to Mabthera, before approving it for use in New Zealand, Medsafe reviewed:

  • how Riximyo was developed
  • the quality of the medicine
  • how patients have responded to Riximyo.

Riximyo is a biosimilar medicine

Rituximab is a biological medicine. It's made from a living organism which means there can be small variations in the medicine. Riximyo is a ‘biosimilar medicine’. Studies comparing Riximyo with Mabthera have shown that the active substance in Riximyo is:

  • highly similar to the active substance in Mabthera
  • delivered to the body in the same way.

Two randomised clinical trials confirm Riximyo provides similar benefits as Mabthera. In a study with over 600 people with a type of cancer treated with rituximab, people were given either Riximyo or Mabthera. Their response was similar regardless of which rituximab they received. 

Riximyo is used in many other countries

Although Riximyo is new to New Zealand, Riximyo has been used in Australia, Germany, the UK, and France safely and effectively.

Improving access to medicines

This decision means approximately 145 more New Zealanders with cancers and inflammatory conditions can be treated with rituximab each year.

Our job is to make sure New Zealanders have access to the medicines they need. Making changes to the brands of funded medicines helps us achieve that by freeing up our limited budget to fund other medicines for New Zealanders.

Who to contact

We recommend you talk with your doctor, nurse or pharmacist if you have any questions or concerns about changing brands. They know you and your circumstances best.

You can contact PHARMAC on:

Information for health care professionals

Rituximab is a biological medicine used to treat a range of conditions, including blood cancers, rheumatologic, and autoimmune conditions.

What’s changing?

There will be two brands of rituximab funded for different indications:

  • Riximyo is a biosimilar rituximab and is the newly funded brand and will be the funded brand for all patients, other than rheumatoid arthritis patients.
  • Mabthera is the currently funded brand and will remain funded for rheumatoid arthritis patients. There are legal patents on Mabthera which prevent other brands of rituximab being used for people with rheumatoid arthritis.

The Riximyo brand was available from 1 March 2020

From 1 March 2020

  • Riximyo is fully funded and all new patients, apart from those with rheumatoid arthritis must start on this brand.
  • Mabthera continues to be funded for existing patients who need to finish their course and all patients using rituximab for rheumatoid arthritis.

From 1 December 2020

  • Riximyo will be fully funded for all patients apart from those using rituximab for rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Mabthera will only be funded for rheumatoid arthritis patients.

There is a nine-month timeframe to transition usage from Mabthera to Riximyo. We’ve allowed nine months so most people taking rituximab will not have to change brands during their treatment course.

Riximyo and Mabthera will have different Special Authority criteria therefore it is important to make sure you prescribe the correct brand and apply for the correct Special Authority. You can find the relevant Special Authority forms on the Schedule listing for each medicine.

Riximyo is a biosimilar medicine

Riximyo is a ‘biosimilar medicine’. This means that Riximyo is highly similar, but not exactly the same as Mabthera. 

Studies comparing Riximyo with Mabthera have shown that the active substance in Riximyo is:

  • highly similar to the active substance in Mabthera 
  • delivered to the body in the same way.

The advice we received from New Zealand clinical experts

A decision to change the brand of a medicine, especially one as important as rituximab, isn’t taken lightly. Before we made this decision, we sought advice from experts who treat people with rituximab.

They looked at the clinical evidence for biosimilar rituximab and were supportive of this decision. You can find more details of what was discussed by clinical experts in the full records of those meeting.

Before making this decision, we asked the public for feedback during our consultation. The feedback was supportive of this decision you can see a summary of that feedback in our notification.

Medsafe has approved Riximyo for use in New Zealand

Medsafe have examined the evidence for Riximyo and have approved its use in New Zealand.

Resources for hospital staff

Prescribers and pharmacists will need to work together to manage this change in their hospitals. We have developed a range of resources that can be used for awareness and education. You can request printed copies from enquiry@pharmac.govt.nz