Side effects

Injection-site reactions and flu-like symptoms are two of the most common side effects with Rebif® (interferon beta-1a), but there are others.

If you are experiencing injection-site reactions and flu-like symptoms, MS LifeLines® can give you tips and information that may help you manage these side effects. Read on for some tips that may help.

Potential serious side effects of Rebif include depression and risk of suicide, liver problems, risk to pregnancy, injection-site problems, and severe allergic reactions. Allergic reactions are rare and may be associated with difficulty in breathing and loss of consciousness, which require immediate medical attention.

Please see important safety information below and the Rebif Medication Guide and Prescribing Information at the top of this page, and speak with your doctor for more information.

Tips that may help with injection site discomfort

Rebif may cause redness, pain or swelling at the place where an injection was given. Some patients have developed skin infections or areas of severe skin damage (necrosis) requiring treatment by a doctor. If one of your injection sites becomes swollen and painful or the area looks infected and it doesn't heal within a few days, you should call your doctor. Here are a few tips that may help you with injection-site discomfort.

  • Bring the syringe to room temperature. Removing the syringe from your refrigerator 1 to 4 hours before injecting may help to reduce irritation. Keep in mind that Rebif syringes should never be warmed in the microwave or placed in boiling water.
  • Clean your injection site beforehand with alcohol swabs. Allow the area to dry before injecting to reduce irritation.
  • Rotate your injection sites! Be sure to rotate your sites each time, and don't reuse the same injection spot for at least 7 days. Your treatment journal can help you to keep track of your injections.
  • Apply an ice pack to the site for no more than 2 minutes before and after injecting. This can help to minimize discomfort. If ice doesn't help, try a warm compress instead.*
  • Massage the area in a circular motion for at least 2 minutes after injection.*
  • Monitor your injection site over several days for redness, swelling or tenderness. If the site worsens over time, contact your doctor.
    • *These tips have been recommended by some health care professionals. If you have questions or concerns, call your doctor.

      Managing flu-like symptoms

      Flu-like symptoms are a common side effect of Rebif and for those who get them, these symptoms can range from fever, chills and sweating to muscle aches and tiredness. For many people taking Rebif, flu-like symptoms tend to lessen or go away over time.

      It's important to note that flu-like symptoms associated with Rebif are not caused by a viral infection. If you have questions or your symptoms don't lesson or go away over time, talk to your health care professional.

      Here are some steps you can take that may help you manage flu-like symptoms:

      • Talk to your doctor about whether you should take an over-the-counter medication for pain or fever reduction before or after taking your dose of Rebif.
        • Taking one just before an injection may help to reduce flu-like symptoms.
        • These medications are available without a prescription, but they can still have side effects; read dosing instructions carefully.
      • Find a time of day that works for you.
        • Some people inject Rebif before bed, so they can sleep through some of their flu-like symptoms.
        • Others find that injecting earlier in the day works best for them.
        • Maintain a consistent injection schedule (3 times per week, at least 48 hours apart) as prescribed by your doctor.

      These tips have been recommended by some health care professionals. If you have questions or concerns, call your doctor.

Marcia J.
MS-Certified Field Nurse, MS LifeLines

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