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Treatments > Medications Used In MS


Brand Name Chemical Name

(U.S. and Canada)

Interferon (in-ter-feer-on) beta-1b

Primary Usage in MS

Generic Available
Disease-modifying agent No
This medication is taken by injection.

Betaseron is a medication manufactured by a biotechnological process from one of the naturally occurring interferons (a type of protein). In a clinical trial of 372 ambulatory patients with relapsing-remitting MS, those taking the currently recommended dose of the medication experienced fewer exacerbations, a longer time between exacerbations, and exacerbations that were generally less severe than those of patients taking a lower dose of the medication or a placebo. Additionally, patients on interferon beta-1b had no increase in total lesion area, as shown on MRI, in contrast to the placebo group, that had a significant increase.

Approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
Betaseron is approved by the FDA for the treatment of relapsing forms of MS to reduce the frequency of clinical exacerbations. Relapsing forms of MS include individuals with secondary-progressive MS who continue to experience relapses or acute attacks. In 2006, the labeling of Betaseron was expanded to include patients who have experienced a first clinical episode and have MRI feature consistent with multiple sclerosis.

Proper Usage
Betaseron is injected subcutaneously (between the fat layer just under the skin and the muscles beneath) every other day. The physician or nurse will instruct you in the injection procedure, using a specially designed set of training materials. Do not attempt to inject yourself until you are sure that you understand the procedures.

Betaseron is supplied with a pre-filled diluant syringe to which the medication needs to be added prior to injection; no refrigeration is necessary.

Do not reuse needles or syringes. Dispose of the syringes as directed by your physician and keep them out of the reach of children.

Since flu-like symptoms are a common side effect associated with at least the initial weeks of taking Betaseron, it is recommended that the medication be taken at bedtime. Taking acetaminophen (TylenolŪ) or ibuprofen (AdvilŪ) thirty minutes before each injection will also help to relieve the flu-like symptoms.

Because injection site reactions (swelling, redness, discoloration, or pain) are relatively common, it is recommended that the sites be rotated according to a schedule provided for you by your physician. Injection site necrosis [skin damage], which occurs in about 5% of patients during the first four months of therapy, has been reported in post-marketing studies even after a year of treatment. In other to avoid infection and other complications, you should report promptly any break in the skin, which may be associated with blue-black discoloration, swelling, or drainage of fluid from the injection site. Your physician will determine whether to continue treatment while the skin lesions are being treated.

Betaseron should not be used during pregnancy or by any woman who is trying to become pregnant. Women taking Betaseron should use birth control measures at all times.

Because of the potential of Betaseron to affect the functioning of the liver and thyroid gland, and to alter the levels of white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets in a person's system, blood tests are recommended at regular intervals.

During the clinical trial of interferon beta-1b, there were four suicide attempts and one completed suicide among those taking interferon beta-1b. Although there is no evidence that the suicide attempts were related to the medication itself, it is recommended that individuals with a history of severe depressive disorder be closely monitored while taking Betaseron.

Possible Side Effects
Common side effects include flu-like symptoms (fatigue, chills, fever, muscle aches, and sweating) and injection site reactions (swelling, redness, discoloration, and pain). Most of these symptoms tend to disappear over time. If they continue, become more severe, or cause significant discomfort, be sure to talk them over with your physician. Contact your physician if the injection sites become inflamed, hardened, or lumpy, and do not inject into any area that has become hardened or lumpy.

Depression, including suicide attempts, has been reported by patients taking Betaseron. Common symptoms of depression are sadness, anxiety, loss of interest in daily activities, irritability, low self-esteem, guilt, poor concentration, indecisiveness, confusion, and eating and sleep disturbances. If you experience any of these symptoms for longer than a day or two, contact your physician promptly.

MS PathwaysSM
1-800-948-5777 (financial issues)

Medication Index

Other Medications Used as Disease-Modifying Agents

The Disease-Modifying Drugs
Information on the disease-modifying drugs (Betaseron, Avonex, Copaxone, Novantrone, Rebif, and Tysabri). Includes how each is taken, side effects, benefits, and available help.

Betaseron “BENEFIT” Follow-Up Study Results Published
Results Show 40% Reduction in Disease Progression
August 2007

Results Published on Early Treatment with Betaseron
August 2006

Is an Oral Disease-Modifying Drug on the Horizon?
February 2006

Neutralizing Antibodies
August 2005

National MS Society Disease Management Consensus Statement
Early intervention recommendations by the Medical Advisory Board of the National MS Society regarding use of the current MS disease-modifying agents

Managing Injection Site Reactions

For professional help with injection anxiety, please discuss the following training program with your nurse or counselor.
Self-Injection Anxiety Counseling (SIAC)

About Interferons

Reprinted with permission from Rosalind C. Kalb (ed.), Multiple Sclerosis: The Questions You Have—The Answers You Need, 3rd Edition. New York: Demos Medical Publishing, Inc., 2004

Last updated August 3, 2007