1 What is Avonex?

Brand: Avonex, Avonex Pen, Rebif, Rebif Rebidose, Rebif Rebidose Titration Pack

Generic: Interferon Beta-1a (Intramuscular Route, Subcutaneous Route)

Interferon beta-1a injection is used for treatment of multiple sclerosis relapse. The exact mechanism of action of the drug is uncertain. On the other hand, it reduces the number of flare-ups of the disease.

This product is available in solution and kit.

2 What to Know Before Using

Tell to your doctor if you are allergic to Interferon beta-1a injection or to any other medications. You should also inform your healthcare providers if you are allergic to foods, dyes, or animals.

Safety and effectiveness of this medication have not been established in children.

There are no specific problems that would limit the usefulness of Interferon beta-1a injection in the elderly. However, elderly patients are prone to have undesirable side effects which may require medical attention.

Pregnancy category C – The use of Interferon beta-1a injection during pregnancy is warranted only if benefits justify risks to the fetus and only when no alternative management is appropriate. This medication poses minimal risk to the infant when used during breastfeeding.

Taking this medication with Live Rotavirus Vaccine is not recommended and you may not be required to use this medication. Otherwise, alternative medicine may be prescribed for your other medications. Using Interferon beta-1a injection with Zidovudine is usually not recommended, but with exception in some cases. Dosage or frequency of one or both of your medicines may be changed if both medicines are prescribed together.

Some medical conditions can interact with this medication. Tell your doctor if you have any of the following conditions:

  • Alcohol abuse
  • Angina
  • Autoimmune disorders
  • Bone marrow problems
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Depression or mental problems
  • Heart disease 
  • Heart rhythm problems
  • Liver disease 
  • Seizures or Epilepsy
  • Thyroid problems
  • Infection
  • Allergy to human albumin —Avonex® powder and Rebif® prefilled syringe and autoinjector should not be used in patients with this condition.

3 Proper Usage

Interferon Beta-1a is administered by your health care professionals through muscle or through the fatty layer of tissue just under the skin by a nurse or other trained health care professionals in a hospital or clinic.

Proper administration of this medication may also be taught to you by your doctor for you so that you can administer it by yourself at home. Use Interferon Beta-1a exactly as prescribed by your doctor. You should administer this medication in different injection sites where this shot can be given. You should not inject this medicine into the same spot twice in a row.

You doctor will prescribed you a brand of a medicine that will work to you. Rebif® comes as an autoinjector or a prefilled syringe. It works best if you use it at the same time on the same 3 days at least 48 hours apart each week.

Avonex® comes as a prefilled autoinjector pen, a prefilled syringe, or a powder. When administering Avonex, the powder must be mixed with sterile water before it is given. After adding the water, do not shake the vial. Swirl the water and medicine together to mix. The mixture should be clear or slightly yellow. If the mixture is has particles in it, do not use it. Use the medicine right away after mixing. You can keep the syringe in the refrigerator for up to 6 hours if you cannot give your shot right away. Throw the medicine away and mix another dose after 6 hours.

Do not use any other needle for the prefilled autoinjector pen. Do not also use any used syringes each time you inject your medication. Recommended dosage for adult patient:

  • Avonex®: 7.5 micrograms is injected into a muscle once a week on the same day. Your doctor will increase your dose by 7.5 mcg every week for the next 3 weeks until you reach 30 mcg weekly.
  • Rebif®: 4.4 or 8.8 mcg is injected under the skin 3 times a week. Your doctor will adjust your dose as needed.

If you miss a dose of Avonex®, use it as soon as possible. Return to your regular schedule the following week. Do not use this medicine 2 days in a row. If you miss a dose of Rebif®, use it as soon as possible. Skip the next day and take your regular dose after 48 hours. Return to your regular schedule the following week. Do not use this medicine 2 days in a row.

Store the medication in a closed container at room temperature, away from heat, moisture, and direct light. Keep out of reach of children. Do not keep expired medications.

Prefilled autoinjector pens, prefilled syringes, or vials should be stored in the refrigerator. Do not freeze. Rebif® prefilled syringes and Avonex® powder vials may be kept for up to 30 days at room temperature if refrigeration is not available. It should be kept away from heat (temperatures above 77 degrees F) and direct light. Avonex® prefilled autoinjector pens and prefilled syringes may be stored for up to 7 days at room temperature, away from heat (temperatures above 77 degrees F) and direct light. Before injection, Avonex® prefilled autoinjector pens and prefilled syringes should be warmed at room temperature for about 30 minutes after removing it from the refrigerator.

Place all needles and other sharps in a sharps disposal container immediately after they have been used. Sharps disposal containers should be kept out of reach of children and pets.

4 Precautions to Take

Your doctor will be checking you regularly to monitor the effectiveness of the medication. Blood tests may be ordered for undesirable effects.

Patients who are taking this medication should be aware that this medication may cause anxiety, irritability, or display other abnormal behaviors. Report any unusual thoughts or behaviors that trouble you, especially if they are new or get worse quickly. Check with your doctor right away if you notice any of these side effects.

Check with your doctor if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • Dark urine, persistent loss of appetite, flu-like symptoms, headache, continuing vomiting, general feeling of tiredness or weakness, light-colored stools, right upper stomach pain or tenderness, or yellow eyes or skin. These could be symptoms of a serious liver problem.
  • Rash, itching, hoarseness, trouble breathing, trouble swallowing, or any swelling of your hands, face, or mouth while you are using this medicine. These could be symptoms of anaphylactic reaction.
  • Depressed or indented skin, blue-green to black skin discoloration, or pain, redness, or sloughing of the skin at the injection site. Some patients have developed skin infections or a permanent depression (necrosis) under the skin at the injection site.

Interferone Beta-1a can lower your body’s resistance temporarily as well as your platelet count. To reduce the risk of bleeding and infection, these certain precautions should be followed:

  • Avoid coming into close contact with sick people.
  • Consult with your doctor immediately if you notice any unusual bleeding or bruising, black, tarry stools, blood in the urine or stools, or pinpoint red spots on your skin.
  • Be cautious when using a regular toothbrush, dental floss, or toothpick.
  • Use protective equipment such as mask for added protection.
  • Avoid activities that might cause injuries.

Interferone Beta-1a commonly causes a flu-like reaction, with aching muscles, chills, fever, headaches, joint pain, and nausea. Administering this medication at bedtime may allow you to sleep through the symptoms. Pain reliever or anti-pyretic drugs may be prescribed by your doctor.

Some brands of interferon beta-1a contain albumin, which comes from human blood. Although the risk is low, some human blood products have transmitted certain viruses to people who have received them. Human donors and donated blood are both tested for viruses to keep the transmission risk low. Discuss with your doctor about this risk if you are concerned. Avonex® prefilled autoinjector pen and prefilled syringe do not contain albumin which comes from donated human blood.

Tell your healthcare professionals if you have a latex allergy before you start using this medicine. The tip cap of the Avonex® prefilled syringe contains dry natural rubber (a derivative of latex), which may cause allergic reactions in people who are sensitive to latex.

5 Potential Side Effects

If any of the following side effects occur, check with your doctor right away:

  • Black, Tarry stools
  • Chest pain
  • Chills
  • Cough
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Headache
  • Joint pain
  • Muscle aches
  • Nausea
  • Pain
  • Painful or Difficult urination
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sores, Ulcers, or White spots on the lips or in the mouth
  • Swollen glands
  • Unusual bleeding or bruising
  • Unusual tiredness or weakness
  • Abdominal or Stomach pain
  • Clumsiness or Unsteadiness
  • Convulsions (seizures)
  • Decreased hearing
  • Difficulty with swallowing
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Feeling of warmth
  • Hives or Itching
  • Mood changes, especially with thoughts of suicide
  • Muscle spasms
  • Pain or Discharge from the vagina
  • Pelvic discomfort, aching, or heaviness
  • Redness of the face, neck, arms, and occasionally, upper chest
  • Redness, Swelling, or Tenderness at the injection site
  • Runny or Stuffy nose
  • Skin lesions
  • Sneezing
  • Sore throat
  • Speech problems
  • Swelling of the face, lips, or eyelids
  • Troubled breathing
  • Earache
  • General feeling of discomfort or illness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Painful blisters on trunk of the body
  • Painful cold sores or blisters on the lips, nose, eyes, or genitals
  • Bleeding gums
  • Blood in the urine or stools
  • Bloody nose
  • Chest discomfort
  • Confusion
  • Constipation
  • Dark urine
  • Decreased urine output
  • Depressed mood
  • Dilated neck veins
  • Dry skin and hair
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Fast, Irregular, or Pounding heartbeat
  • Feeling cold
  • General tiredness and weakness
  • Hair loss
  • Heavier menstrual periods
  • High fever
  • Irregular breathing
  • Light-colored stools
  • Loss of bladder control
  • Mental depression
  • Mood or Other mental changes
  • Muscle cramps and stiffness
  • Nausea or Vomiting
  • Nervousness
  • Pale skin
  • Persistent loss of appetite
  • Pinpoint red spots on the skin
  • Puffiness or Swelling of the eyelids, or around the eyes, face, lips, or tongue
  • Redness, Blistering, Peeling, or Loosening of the skin
  • Sensitivity to heat
  • Skin rash
  • Slowed heartbeat
  • Sudden loss of consciousness
  • Sweating
  • Swelling of the face, fingers, feet, or lower legs
  • Swelling of the mouth or throat
  • Tightness in the chest
  • Tightness in the throat
  • Upper right abdominal or stomach pain or tenderness
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Yellow eyes and skin

Less serious side effects:

Not all side effects are listed above. If you notice any other effects, check with your healthcare professionals.

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