Two recombinant interferon-ß's have been approved for treatments of patients with MS who have a relapsing-remitting course of the disease - Interferonß-1b and Interferonß-1a. A controlled double-blind study that lasted for over 2 years established that Interferonß-1b (Betaseron) is effective in relapsing-remitting patients. This medication is administered by subcutaneous injections QOD. It reduces the number of exacerbations by 30% per year per patient, and the severity of relapses that do occur is also reduced. An MRI study revealed fewer lesions in the treated group versus the placebo group. Patients with the stable or progressive course of the disease are not yet known to benefit from this treatment. This medication can exhibit significant side effects that may require discontinuation of treatment. All patients experience local injection site reaction. Some patients even developed tissue necrosis at injection site. Many patients complain of flu-like symptoms following the injection, including chills and fevers, myalgia and malaise. Blood levels need to be monitored while on this medication to assess liver function and WBC count. Liver function abnormalities and leukopenia were seen in some patients. Interferon-1a (Avonex) is now also available for clinical use. Preliminary results of clinical trials suggest that this medication is very similar to Betaseron in its positive effects on the relapsing-remitting population of patients. It appears to reduce the likelihood of progression of the early disease. Avonex is claimed to have fewer side effects than Betaseron (.,. Significantly reduced risk of injection site reaction), but more thorough and broad clinical experience is needed to confirm this. Interferonß-1a (Avonex) is administered by the intramuscular injections once per week.
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