Posted by: Thixia | April 13, 2008

MS Therapies – Rebif

Brand Name





Common Name


interferon beta-1a (Rebif)



How does this medication work? What will it do for me?



Interferon beta-1a belongs to the group of medications known as immunomodulators. Interferon is a substance that is naturally made by our body’s cells to fight infections and tumours. Many diseases such as multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis are thought to result from our body’s own defense or immune system attacking certain cells in our body. Man-made or synthetic versions of interferon have been made by pharmaceutical manufacturers in order to adjust the body’s defense system in such a way that it reduces the symptoms of certain conditions.


Interferon beta-1a is a synthetic interferon and is used to treat the type of multiple sclerosis that is associated with both symptom and symptom-free periods. This type of multiple sclerosis (MS) is known as the relapsing-remitting form of the disease. Interferon beta-1a will not cure multiple sclerosis, but may reduce the number and severity of relapses, slow the progression of physical disability, reduce the requirement for steroids, reduce the number of hospitalizations for treatment of multiple sclerosis, and reduce brain lesions (damaged brain areas) seen on MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans.


This medication can also be used to treat people with another type of MS known as SPMS (secondary progressive MS) who are still having relapses. In people with SPMS, the medication can decrease the frequency of relapses and reduce brain lesions seen on MRI scans.


Your doctor may have suggested this medication for conditions other than the ones listed in these drug information articles. If you have not discussed this with your doctor or are not sure why you are taking this medication, speak to your doctor. Do not stop taking this medication without consulting your doctor.



How should I use this medication?



The recommended dose of Rebif® for relapsing-remitting forms of multiple sclerosis is 6 IU (22 µg) injected under the skin three times per week. People with a higher degree of disability may need doses of 12 IU (44 µg) injected under the skin three times per week In order to reduce side effects when first starting treatment, it is recommended the dose be gradually increased as follows: 20% of the recommended dose during the first two weeks of treatment, 50% of the recommended dose during the third and fourth weeks of treatment, and the full dose from the fifth week onwards. Your doctor may ask you to inject the medication at home once he or she has given you instruction and is certain that you won’t have any difficulties.


Many things can affect the dose of medication that a person needs, such as body weight, other medical conditions, and other medications. If your doctor has recommended a dose different from the ones listed here, do not change the way you are using the medication without consulting your doctor.


It is very important to use this medication exactly as prescribed by your doctor. If you miss a dose, take it as soon as you can. You may resume your regular schedule, but two injections should not be administered within two days of each other.


Keep the medication in the refrigerator before diluting it, but make sure it doesn’t freeze. Allow the interferon beta-1a to reach room temperature before diluting it. If you have left the medication out of the refrigerator by mistake, keep in mind that it is stable at room temperature for up to 30 days. Please refer to the package insert (the written instructions that come in the medication package) for complete instructions on using this medication. Always wash your hands before preparing the medication and after you have used it.


As well as interfering with unwanted cells, interferon beta-1a can interfere with some of your normal cells. It can cause a number of side effects such as temporary hair loss. It is important to keep using it, even if you feel ill, unless otherwise directed by your doctor. Your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist can advise you on how to reduce the symptoms of side effects. Keep track of any side effects and report them to your doctor as suggested in the section, “What side effects are possible with this medication?”



Keep this medication out of reach of children.



What form(s) does this medication come in?


22 mg


Each prefilled syringe with 0.5 mL of solution contains interferon beta-1a 22 µg (6 MIU). Nonmedicinal ingredients: albumin (human), mannitol and sodium acetate buffer. Preservative-free.


44 mg


Each prefilled syringe with 0.5 mL of solution contains interferon beta-1a 44 µg (12 MIU). Nonmedicinal ingredients: albumin (human), mannitol and sodium acetate buffer. Preservative-free.


Some medications may have other generic brands available. Always ask your doctor or pharmacist about the safety of switching between brands of the same medication.



Who should NOT take this medication?


Interferon beta-1a should not be used by:


·    anyone allergic to interferon beta-1a, human albumin, or any of the ingredients

·    pregnant women



What side effects are possible with this medication?


The side effects listed below are not experienced by everyone who takes this medication. If you are concerned about side effects, discuss the risks and benefits of this medication with your health professional. They may be able to help you to deal with some of the effects.


The following side effects may go away as your body becomes used to the medication; check with your doctor if they continue or become bothersome.


More common


·    heartburn

·    indigestion

·    nausea

·    muscle aches and pains

·    sour stomach

·    Less common

·    hair loss

·    sleeping problems


Check with your doctor as soon as possible if any of the following side effects occur:



More common


·    chills

·    diarrhea

·    fever

·    flu-like symptoms, including headache

·    joint pain

·    muscle aches

·    nausea

·    pain

·    unusual bleeding or bruising

·    unusual tiredness or weakness



Less common


·    abdominal pain

·    breathing problems

·    chest pain

·    clumsiness or unsteadiness

·    coughing

·    decreased hearing

·    dizziness

·    fainting

·    flushing

·    hives or itching

·    mood changes, including depression

·    muscle spasms

·    pain or discharge from the vagina

·    pelvic discomfort, aching, or heaviness

·    redness, swelling, or tenderness at site of injection

·    runny or stuffy nose

·    seizures

·    skin lesions

·    sneezing

·    sore throat

·    speech problems

·    swelling of face, lips, or eyelids

·    wheezing





·    appetite loss

·    cold sores

·    earache

·    shingles



Some people may experience side effects other than those listed. Check with your doctor if you notice any symptom that worries you while you are taking this medication.



Are there any other precautions or warnings for this medication?


Bone marrow suppression:

People with bone marrow suppression may be at increased risk of developing blood toxicity during interferon beta therapy.



People who have depression may experience a worsening of their symptoms when starting therapy with this medication.


Liver damage:

This medication may cause severe liver damage. This side effect is rare, but can be very serious. It usually occurs in the first six months of treatment, but may also occur later in treatment. Your doctor will test your liver function regularly while you are taking this medication. Contact your doctor immediately if you notice any of the signs of liver damage, including yellow eyes or skin, easy bruising of the skin, nausea and vomiting, itching, or abdominal pain. People who have a history of poor liver function, alcohol abuse, or active liver disease should be closely monitored by their doctor while taking this medication.


Reduced liver or kidney function:

This medication should be used with caution by people with severe reduced liver or kidney function.



This medication should be taken with caution by people who have a pre-existing seizure disorder (such as epilepsy). Although clinical trials did not show any increased risk of seizures, seizures have been reported with other interferon therapies.


Severe heart disease:

Symptoms of flu-like syndrome that can occur with this medication therapy may prove stressful to people with severe heart conditions (e.g., angina, arrhythmia).



This medication should not be used during pregnancy. Tell your doctor immediately if you become pregnant while using this medication.



It is not known whether interferon beta-1a passes into breast milk. Women should not breast-feed while receiving interferon beta-1a treatment due to the possibility of harm to the infant.



What other drugs could interact with this medication?


The following substances may affect how this medication works or be affected by it, or the risk of side effects may increase:


  • other medications that affect the immune system (e.g., corticosteroids, chemotherapy)
  • zidovudine (AZT)


If you are taking any of these medications, speak with your doctor or pharmacist. Depending on your specific circumstances, your doctor may want you to:


·    stop taking one of the medications,

·    change one of the medications to another,

·    change how you are taking one or both of the medications, or

·    leave everything as is.


An interaction between two medications does not always mean that you must stop taking one of them. In many cases, interactions are intended or are managed by close monitoring. Speak to your doctor about how any drug interactions are being managed or should be managed.


Medications other than those listed above may interact with this medication. Tell your doctor or prescriber about all prescription, over-the-counter (non-prescription), and herbal medications that you are taking. Also tell them about any supplements you take. Since caffeine, alcohol, the nicotine from cigarettes, or street drugs can affect the action of many medications, you should let your prescriber know if you use them.





The contents of this site are for informational purposes only and are meant to be discussed with your physician or other qualified health care professional before being acted on. Never disregard any advice given to you by your doctor or other qualified health care professional. Always seek the advice of a physician or other licensed health care professional regarding any questions you have about your medical condition(s) and treatment(s). This site is not a substitute for medical advice.



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