25 Years of Treating MS: Changing the Approach to Patient Care Sponsored Article

By Biogen

The introduction of disease-modifying treatments transformed what it means to receive a multiple sclerosis (MS) diagnosis, having an incredible impact on patient care.

Just three decades ago, treating multiple sclerosis (MS) was limited to reducing the severity of symptoms and shortening the duration of relapses, with no effect on the progression of the disease itself.1

The arrival of interferons like AVONEX® (interferon beta-1a), the first disease-modifying therapies for MS, helped reshape the treatment trajectory for people diagnosed with this chronic disease. Today, with more than 595,000 people treated with AVONEX6 worldwide since its approval, it remains the No. 1 prescribed interferon7 and continues to be a valuable option for patients. Please see below for Important Safety Information.

A paradigm shift in the treatment of MS

Where initial MS treatments focused only on managing symptoms, the AVONEX clinical development program and other interferon studies demonstrated that the course of MS could be modified therapeutically. For neurologists, this meant they could treat the underlying disease instead of just symptoms. For those living with MS, it meant the possibility of slowing down the progression of their disease.

Interferons play an important role in regulating the immune system.2 MS occurs when a person’s immune cells attack their central nervous system, causing inflammation in the body that leads to nerve damage. Interferon beta keeps this inflammation in check.3 The structure of the AVONEX molecule is identical to the natural human interferon beta,4 so it works naturally with the body’s immune system.

Dr. Scott recalls how these breakthroughs finally gave the MS community hope that the disease was treatable and forged a new path for the future.

A mainstay of MS treatment over 25 years

AVONEX continues to be widely considered by physicians when treating people living with relapsing MS. AVONEX is a once-a-week injectable treatment for adults with relapsing MS and was the first interferon beta therapy to slow impairment caused by the disease, showing a reduction in disability progression in clinical trials. It remains a valuable choice for both physicians and patients, with consistent long-term data supporting its favorable benefit/risk profile.5 The possible risks and serious side effects of AVONEX include heart problems, such as heart failure, blood problems, seizures, thrombotic microangiopathy and autoimmune diseases. The most common side effects associated with AVONEX are flu-like symptoms. Please see below or click here for Important Safety Information and full Prescribing Information, including Medication Guide for AVONEX in the U.S. It is not known if AVONEX is safe and effective in children.

In all chronic conditions, a person’s treatment preference is an essential factor in care. As more options become available that can be administered in different ways, it’s possible to make MS treatment more individualized to the needs of each patient.

When discussing your MS treatment with your doctor, ask whether AVONEX might be an option for you. Learn more at AVONEX.com.

About AVONEX® (interferon beta-1a)

AVONEX is a prescription medicine used to treat relapsing forms of multiple sclerosis (MS), to include clinically isolated syndrome, relapsing-remitting disease, and active secondary progressive disease, in adults.

It is not known if AVONEX is safe and effective in children.

Important Safety Information

Who should not use AVONEX® (interferon beta-1a)?

  • Do not take AVONEX if you are allergic to interferon beta or any of the ingredients in AVONEX

Before beginning treatment, you should discuss with your healthcare provider the potential benefits and risks associated with AVONEX. 

What is the most important information I should know about AVONEX?

AVONEX can cause serious side effects. Tell your healthcare provider right away if you have any of the symptoms listed below while taking AVONEX.

  • Depression, suicidal thoughts, hallucinations or other behavioral health problems. Some people taking AVONEX may develop mood or behavior problems including irritability (getting upset easily), depression (feeling hopeless or feeling bad about yourself), nervousness, anxiety, aggressive behavior, thoughts of hurting yourself or suicide, and hearing or seeing things that others do not hear or see (hallucinations)

If you have any of these mood or behavior problems, your healthcare provider may tell you to stop taking AVONEX.

  • Liver problems, or worsening of liver problems including liver failure and death. Tell your healthcare provider right away if you have any of these symptoms: Nausea, loss of appetite, tiredness, dark colored urine and pale stools, yellowing of your skin or the white part of your eye, bleeding more easily than normal, confusion, and sleepiness. During your treatment with AVONEX you will need to see your healthcare provider regularly and have regular blood tests to check for side effects. Tell your healthcare provider about all the medicines you take and if you drink alcohol before you start taking AVONEX
  • Serious allergic reactions and skin reactions. Serious allergic and skin reactions can happen when you take AVONEX. Symptoms of serious allergic and skin reactions may include itching, swelling of the face, eyes, lips, tongue or throat, trouble breathing, anxiousness, feeling faint, and skin rash, hives, sores in your mouth, or your skin blisters and peels

Get emergency help right away if you have any of these symptoms. Talk to your healthcare provider before taking another dose of AVONEX.

Before taking AVONEX, tell your healthcare provider about all of your medical conditions, including if you:

  • are being treated for a mental illness, or had treatment in the past for any mental illness, including depression and suicidal behavior
  • have or had bleeding problems or blood clots, have or had low blood cell counts, have or had liver problems, have or had seizures (epilepsy), have or had heart problems, have or had thyroid problems, have or had any kind of autoimmune disease (where the body’s immune system attacks the body’s own cells)
  • drink alcohol
  • have or have had an allergic reaction to rubber or latex. The tip cap of the AVONEX prefilled syringe and prefilled autoinjector Pen contain natural rubber latex
  • are pregnant or plan to become pregnant. It is not known if AVONEX can harm your unborn baby
  • are breastfeeding or plan to breastfeed. AVONEX may pass into your breastmilk. Talk with your healthcare provider about the best way to feed your baby if you take AVONEX

Tell your healthcare provider about all the medicines you take, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements.

What are the possible side effects of AVONEX? 

AVONEX can cause serious side effects, including:

  • Heart problems, including heart failure. Some people who did not have a history of heart problems developed heart muscle problems or congestive heart failure after taking AVONEX. If you already have heart failure, AVONEX may cause your heart failure to get worse. Call your healthcare provider right away if you have worsening symptoms of heart failure such as shortness of breath or swelling of your lower legs or feet while using AVONEX
    • Some people using AVONEX may have other heart problems including low blood pressure, fast or abnormal heartbeat, chest pain, and heart attack or heart muscle problem (cardiomyopathy)
  • Blood problems. AVONEX can affect your bone marrow and cause low red and white blood cell and platelet counts. In some people, these blood cell counts may fall to dangerously low levels. If your blood cell counts become very low, you can get infections and problems with bleeding and bruising
  • Seizures. Some people have had seizures while taking AVONEX, including people who have never had seizures before. Tell your healthcare provider right away if you have a seizure
  • Thrombotic microangiopathy (TMA). TMA is a condition that involves injury to the smallest blood vessels in your body. TMA can also cause injury to your red blood cells (the cells that carry oxygen to your organs and tissues) and your platelets (cells that help your blood clot) and can sometimes lead to death. Your healthcare provider may tell you to stop taking AVONEX if you develop TMA
  • Autoimmune diseases. Problems with easy bleeding or bruising (idiopathic thrombocytopenia), thyroid gland problems (hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism), and autoimmune hepatitis have happened in some people who use AVONEX

The most common side effects of AVONEX include:

  • Flu-like symptoms. Most people who take AVONEX have flu-like symptoms especially early during the course of therapy. Usually, these symptoms last for a day after the injection. Symptoms may include muscle aches, fever, tiredness, and chills

You may be able to manage these flu-like symptoms by taking over-the-counter pain and fever reducers.

Talk with your healthcare provider about ways to help if you develop flu-like symptoms while taking AVONEX.

These are not all of the possible side effects of AVONEX.

Call your healthcare provider for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.

Please see full Prescribing Information and Medication Guide.

This information does not take the place of talking with your healthcare provider about your medical condition or your treatment.


  1. Multiple Sclerosis Association of America. History of Multiple Sclerosis. Available at: https://mymsaa.org/ms-information/overview/history/#:~:text=In%201951%2C%20cortisone%20(a%20steroid,term%20effects%20on%20the%20disease.
  2. Rommer PS, Milo R, Han MH, Satyanarayan S, Sellner J, Hauer L, Illes Z, Warnke C, Laurent S, Weber MS, Zhang Y, Stuve O. Immunological Aspects of Approved MS Therapeutics. Front Immunol. 2019 Jul 11;10:1564. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2019.01564. PMID: 31354720; PMCID: PMC6637731.
  3. Hojati Z, Kay M, Dehghanian F. (2016). Chapter 15 – Mechanism of Action of Interferon Beta in Treatment of Multiple Sclerosis. Multiple Sclerosis. Academic Press. Pages 365-392. https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-12-800763-1.00015-4. Available at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/B9780128007631000154?via%3Dihub.
  4. Food and Drug Administration. AVONEX® (Interferon beta-1a). Available at: https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2003/ifnbbio013103LB.htm.
  5. Madsen C. The innovative development in interferon beta treatments of relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis. Brain Behav. 2017 May 8;7(6):e00696. doi: 10.1002/brb3.696. PMID: 28638705; PMCID: PMC5474703.
  6. Combined post-marketing data based on prescriptions for AVONEX as of December 31, 2020.
  7. This information is an estimate derived from the use of information under license from the following IQVIA information service: IQVIA Monthly NPA TRx for the period March 2015 through February 2021. IQVIA expressly reserves all rights, including rights of copying, distribution and republication.