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What are the possible side effects
Before you choose a treatment for relapsing MS, you should consider possible side effects. Injection-site reactions and flu-like symptoms (fever, chills, sweating, muscle aches, and tiredness) are 2 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, there may be things you can do to help. Read on for some tips. You can also get guidance for managing common symptoms and certain side effects, should they occur, by speaking to an MS LifeLines Nurse at 1-877-447-3243.
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 1–4 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 site 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.
- Applying a cold compress or ice pack to the injection site after injection may help reduce local skin reactions.
- 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 healthcare professionals. If you have questions or concerns, call your doctor.
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 and do not include diarrhea and vomiting. If you have questions or your symptoms don't lessen or go away over time, talk to your healthcare 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 of these medications just before an injection may help to reduce flu-like symptoms.
- 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.
Please see important safety information below and the Rebif Medication Guide and Prescribing Information at the top of this page. Speak with your healthcare professional for more information or about any side effects you may have.
Managing flu-like symptoms
Neurologist Randy Schapiro, MD, FAAN,
discusses ways to help manage one of
the common side effects that can occur
with treatment for relapsing multiple
sclerosis: flu-like symptoms.
Other possible Rebif side effects
- Depression and anxietySome patients taking interferons have become very depressed and/or anxious. There have been patients taking interferons who have had thoughts about killing themselves. Depression is not uncommon in people with multiple sclerosis. However, if you are feeling noticeably sadder or hopeless, or feel like hurting yourself or others, you should tell a family member or friend right away and call your doctor as soon as possible
- Liver problemsYour liver may be affected by taking Rebif and a few people have developed severe liver injury. Your healthcare provider may ask you to have regular blood tests to make sure that your liver is working properly. If you develop symptoms of changes in your liver, including yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes and easy bruising, you should call your doctor right away
- Blood problemsYou may have a drop in the levels of infection-fighting blood cells, red blood cells, or cells that help to form blood clots. If the drop in levels is severe, it can lessen your ability to fight infections, make you feel tired or sluggish, or cause you to bruise or bleed easily
- Thyroid problemsYour thyroid function may change. Symptoms of changes in the function of your thyroid include feeling cold or hot all the time, or a change in your weight (gain or loss) without a change in your diet or amount of exercise
- Allergic reactionsSome people have had hives, rash, skin bumps, or itching while they were taking Rebif. Other people have had more serious allergic reactions, such as difficulty breathing or feeling light-headed. Allergic reactions can happen after your first dose or may not happen until after you have taken Rebif many times. Less severe allergic reactions, such as itching, flushing, or skin bumps, can also happen at any time. You should tell your healthcare provider if you think you are having an allergic reaction
For more information about drug safety and adverse event reporting, visit the Food and Drug Administration website.