You should talk with your healthcare provider prior to taking interferon beta-1a if you have:
- Liver disease, such as liver failure, cirrhosis, or hepatitis
- Depression or other mood disorders
- A seizure disorder or epilepsy
- Thyroid problems
- Any allergies, including allergies to food, dyes, or preservatives.
Also, let your healthcare provider know if you are:
- Pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant (see Avonex and Pregnancy or Rebif and Pregnancy)
- Breastfeeding (see Avonex and Breastfeeding or Rebif and Breastfeeding).
Make sure to tell your healthcare provider about all other medicines you are taking, including prescription and nonprescription medications, vitamins, and herbal supplements.
(Click Precautions and Warnings With Interferon Beta-1a to learn more, including information on who should not take the drug.)
Even though interferon beta-1a is made using Chinese hamster ovary cells, it is made up of exactly the same amino acids as human interferon. Interferons are naturally occurring proteins or glycoproteins (proteins attached to carbohydrates). In humans, interferons are produced by cells in response to certain situations, such as viral infections, and often play a key role in the immune system.
At this time, it is not fully understood how interferon beta-1a works to treat MS. Although the exact causes of MS are not known, it is often considered to be an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks and destroys the protective coating around nerve fibers. Interferon beta-1a may work by limiting this immune system response, decreasing the damage to the nerves.
Because interferon beta-1a is a glycoprotein (made up of protein and carbohydrate), it would be broken down and destroyed by the digestive system if taken by mouth. Thus, the medication must be injected to bypass the digestive tract.