You should talk with your healthcare provider prior to taking interferon beta-1b if you have:
- A blood disorder, such as anemia or low blood counts of any kind
- Liver disease, such as liver failure, cirrhosis, or hepatitis
- Depression or other mood disorders
- A seizure disorder or epilepsy
- Congestive heart failure (CHF)
- 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 Betaseron and Pregnancy or Extavia and Pregnancy)
- Breastfeeding (see Betaseron and Breastfeeding or Extavia and Breastfeeding).
Make sure to tell your healthcare provider about all other medicines you are taking, including prescription and non-prescription medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements.
(Click Precautions and Warnings With Interferon Beta-1b to learn more, including information on who should not take the drug.)
Even though interferon beta-1b is made using bacteria, it is almost exactly the same 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-1b 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. It is thought that interferon beta-1b may work by limiting this immune system response, decreasing the damage to the nerves.
Because interferon beta-1b is a protein, it would be broken down and destroyed by the digestive system if taken by mouth. For this reason, interferon beta-1b must be injected to bypass the digestive tract.