Rebif is a prescription medication approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for adults who have had their first episode of multiple sclerosis (MS) symptoms and whose magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans are compatible with a diagnosis of MS. The active ingredient in Rebif is Interferon beta 1a, which is also sold under the brand name of Avonex. Avonex is a slightly different formulation. Rebif is not a cure for MS, but it can decrease the number of flare-ups and help delay or prevent disability in people with relapsing forms of MS. Rebif must be used with caution and closely monitored in people with a history of depression, seizures or heart or liver problems. Rebif is not suitable for use by pregnant women, women who plan to become pregnant, or women who are breastfeeding. It should also not be taken by anyone allergic to interferon beta or to human albumin (a type of protein).
It is believed that Rebif works by reducing inflammation in the brain. It may also promote nerve growth.
How do I take it?
Rebif is given three times a week as a subcutaneous injection into the thigh, upper arm, abdomen or buttocks. It is recommended to time Rebif injections at least 48 hours apart, preferably at the same time each day. You can learn to inject yourself, have a friend or family member learn how to inject you, or receive your injection from a medical professional. You should change to a different site each time you inject, and never inject into any part of the skin that is scarred, infected, bruised or irritated.
Rebif comes either as a prefilled syringe or as a single-use autoinjector pen. Your doctor will help you select which format is best for you.
Rebif should be kept refrigerated. However, it can be kept at or below room temperature for as long as 30 days.
When you begin taking Rebif, your doctor will gradually increase the dosage each week over four weeks. Before or during your treatment with Rebif, your doctor may order extra blood tests to monitor your liver function and blood cell counts.
Limit your intake of alcoholic beverages while taking Rebif. Consult your doctor for more details about how to drink safely during treatment.
Always follow your doctor’s instructions exactly when taking Rebif.
Interferon beta 1a (Rebif) was approved by the FDA in 2002 based on the results of two clinical trials. In the first trial, 560 people in three groups were regularly given either 22 mcg or 44 mcg of Interferon beta 1a or a placebo. At the end of two years, 32 percent of those who took 44 mcg of Interferon beta 1a and 25 percent of those who took 22 mcg of Interferon beta 1a had not had a relapse in that time period, while only 15 percent of those on the placebo did not have a relapse. Those taking Interferon beta 1a also had fewer and smaller brain lesions.
In the second study, 677 people with relapsing MS took Rebif or Avonex for 48 weeks. The purpose of this study was to compare the effectiveness of Rebif with Avonex, which has the same active ingredient. At the end of 48 weeks, 10 percent fewer of the people taking Rebif had suffered a relapse, compared to those taking Avonex. Those taking Rebif also had slightly fewer brain lesions than those taking Avonex, on average.
It has not been established whether Interferon beta 1a is safe or effective beyond two years of treatment.
It is very common to experience flu-like symptoms during the first few days of taking Rebif. Over-the-counter pain relievers can be taken to ease the discomfort. It is also common to experience injection-site skin reactions, abdominal pain, and a change in blood cell counts.
Some people taking Rebif experience mood or behavioral problems including depression, suicidal thoughts, anxiety, irritability or hallucinations.
Some people on Rebif develop liver problems or experience a worsening of existing liver problems. Signs of liver problems can include jaundice (yellowing of the white part of the eye), nausea, loss of appetite, dark urine and pale feces, and bleeding more easily than usual.
Rebif can also cause allergic reactions. Get medical help immediately if you experience difficulty breathing or swelling in the face, throat, eyes, lips or tongue.