Rebif (interferon beta-1a) is a subcutaneously administered therapy used to treat relapsing forms of multiple sclerosis. Rebif reduces the frequency of the disease’s exacerbations and the physical incapacity that accompanies them.

Relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS) is the most common form of multiple sclerosis (MS), representing 85% of the cases. This disease is characterized by moments of crisis (exacerbation) followed by periods of relieved symptoms. These relapse phases may last hours or days.

Rebif is prescribed to reduce the frequency of relapse symptoms. However, it doesn’t cure the disease or treat its underlying cause.

How Rebif Works

MS is an immune-mediated neurological disease. It consists of inflammation that causes demyelination (injuries to the protective sheath of nerves).

The interferon beta-1a is a substance naturally produced by our body, which helps it fight external attacks, like infections. However, its mechanism of action has yet to be confirmed.

Rebif, approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2002 as an RRMS treatment (and in Europe in 1998), is an immunomodulator that reduces the inflammation related to the demyelination process, controlling the disease.

Rebif interferon beta-1aClinical Trials for Rebif

A clinical trial, conducted in the 1990s in nine countries, randomized 560 patients with RRMS to receive either 22 micrograms or 44 micrograms of Rebif, or a placebo. The primary endpoint evaluated over the course of two years was the number of exacerbations reported by participants. Data from the study showed that interferon beta-1a treatment “significantly” reduced number and severity of exacerbations and delayed disability progression.

In another study, Rebif was compared to a placebo in 515 people who had experienced a single attack of demyelination. In this study, participants were administered either 44 micrograms of Rebif (once or three times a week), or placebo, for two years. The evaluated study parameter was the time it took for patients to develop MS. The study concluded that patients who were administered this drug three times a week had 62.5% probability of developing MS, while the placebo patients had 85.8% probability.

The most common adverse reactions when taking Rebif are flu-like symptoms, anxiety and depression, lymphopenia and leucopenia (low white-blood-cell counts), thrombocytopenia (low blood platelet counts), anemia (low red-blood-cell counts), headache, inflammation and other reactions at the injection site, and increases in transaminases (liver enzymes). However, these adverse reactions are usually light and reversible.

Next Steps for Rebif

Rebif has several post-approval studies, ongoing or recently completed, that are evaluating its sustained and long-term benefits for RRMS patients. The new Rebif formulation has been studied and intends to give a better quality of life to patients, largely by lowering injection site reactions.

The European Commission approved Rebif in 2012 as a treatment for people with early indications of MS (a single demyelination event) and considered at risk of developing the disease.

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