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Multiple Sclerosis, Copaxone, and the Interferon Drugs

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Interferons are a group of immune system proteins -- alpha, beta, and gamma -- produced by the body. They act in different ways to control the activity of the immune system. They also have antiviral properties. (Remember that another theory regarding relapses in people who already have MS is that they may be triggered by viruses.) So far, experts have found that interferon beta is effective in treating multiple sclerosis (MS).

There are five forms of interferon beta on the market in the U.S.: Avonex, Betaseron, Extavia, Plegridy, and Rebif.

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These interferon beta drugs are very similar to the interferon beta naturally produced in the body.

Avonex

  • FDA approved for the treatment of relapsing MS.
  • It slows the accumulation of physical disability and reduces the frequency of exacerbations for patients who have experienced
    a first episode and have MRI features consistent with MS.
  • Drug also shown to reduce progression of MS disability, if started in the early stages of the disease.
  • Drug given weekly by an injection into the muscle.

 

Betaseron

  • FDA approved for the treatment of relapsing forms of MS.
  • It slows the accumulation of physical disability and reduces the frequency of exacerbations for patients who have experienced
    a first episode and have MRI features consistent with MS.
  • Drug given as an injection every other day subcutaneously (between the fat layer under the skin).

Extavia

  • FDA approved for the treatment of relapsing forms of MS.
  • It slows the accumulation of physical disability and reduces the frequency of exacerbations for patients who have experienced
    a first episode and have MRI features consistent with MS.
  • Drug given as an injection every other day subcutaneously (between the fat layer under the skin). 

Plegridy

  • Plegridy is actually a version of interferon, that can be taken less frequently.
  • FDA approved for the treatment of relapsing forms of MS.
  • The most common side effects are reactions at the injection site and flu-like symptoms.
  • The drug is given once every 2 weeks with an autoinjector or a prefilled syringe.

 

Rebif

  • FDA approved to treat relapsing forms of MS.
  • For the treatment of relapsing forms of MS to reduce the frequency of clinical exacerbations and delay the accumulation of physical disability.
  • Drug given three times a week subcutaneously (between the fat layer under the skin).
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