Avonex (Interferon beta-1a) has the most treatment experience for relapsing-remitting forms (RRMS) of MS worldwide. It is used worldwide as a treatment for RRMS to slow the progression of disability and reduce relapses, and it is also approved for patients who have their first clinical MS attack and have a brain MRI scan consistent with MS.
Avonex is a medication manufactured by a biotechnological process from one of the naturally-occurring interferons (a type of protein). It is made up of exactly the same amino acids (major components of proteins) as the interferon beta found in the human body.
In controlled clinical trials in relapsing MS, those taking the medication had a reduced risk of disability progression, experienced fewer exacerbations, and showed a reduction in number and size of active lesions in the brain (as shown on MRI) when compared with the group taking a placebo. In a subsequent study of patients who had experienced a single demyelinating event in the optic nerve, spinal cord, or brainstem, and had lesions typical of MS on brain MRI, Avonex significantly delayed the time to a second exacerbation, and thus to a clinically definite diagnosis of MS.
Avonex is given as a once-a-week intramuscular (IM) injection. The drug comes in pre-filled syringe and powdered formulations, and the best intramuscular injection sites are the thigh and upper arm. In 2012, an autoinjector (Avonex PEN) became available, and for the PEN, the injection can only be administered in the upper or outer thigh.
When prescribed, and through a nurse visit to your home, you and your care partner will be instructed in safe and proper IM injection procedures. If you are unable to self-inject, and have no family member or friend available to do the injections, your physician or nurse will administer the injections. Do not attempt to inject yourself until you are sure that you understand the procedures.
The most common side effects associated with AVONEX MS treatment are flu-like symptoms, including myalgia, fever, fatigue, headache, chills, nausea, vomiting, pain and asthenia. These symptoms are a fairly common side effect, especially during the initial weeks of Avonex treatment. It is recommended that you take your Avonex injection before bedtime. Immediately before your injection, and for the 24 hours that follow the injection, patients have found that use of over the counter pain and fever reducing medications can help with this common side effect.
The drug is best properly stored in the refrigerator. Should refrigeration be unavailable, AVONEX in a prefilled syringe can be stored up to 77°F (25°C) for up to 7 days. Note that after the product is removed from the refrigerator, it must not be stored above 77°F (25°C). Avonex should not be frozen. If your Avonex prefilled syringe has been exposed to conditions other than those recommended, do not use the product. Instead, discard your prefilled syringe and call MS ActiveSource at 1-800-456-2255.
Avonex is not typically available at the local pharmacy, but is ordered through and delivered by special pharmacies. There is currently no generic form of Avonex, however, there are available programs that can provide assistance. MS ActiveSource Support Services is a program network provided by Biogen Idec to assist with injection training, peer & nurse support, and financial & insurance assistance. Learn more at www.avonex.com or by calling the 800 number above.
My Avonex Experience
I have taken Avonex for the past 12 years and transitioned from the powdered form to the Avonex PEN. Regular MRI’s and blood tests are administered by my Neurologist, and those tell us the drug is still performing for me.
I like the fact that Avonex is administered once-per-week. My routine is to take the IM injection every Friday night at bedtime. While side effects are minimal for me now, in the early days, having Saturday to respond to and recover from the flu-like side effects was helpful.
Similar to other MS medications, the injections are not a cure, and there are not noticeable immediate positive results from the IM injections. However, having been on the drug since 2003, I can attest that my MRI’s have shown that the disease progression has slowed, and I am thankful to have been able to have Avonex as a solution available to me.
Have you taken Avonex?
Tim has lived in the suburbs of Chicago for 25 years with his wife Bren, where they reside with their dog, Blue. They have three grown children and a new daughter in law. They are all avid sports fans, especially college basketball. He loves to cook, enjoys wine, and passionately follows the Chicago Cubs.
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