Avonex Warnings and Precautions
Before taking Avonex, warnings and precautions regarding the safety of the medication should be discussed with your healthcare provider or pharmacist. For example, it is important to know that Avonex may increase the risk for depression, cause dangerous allergic reactions, or decrease your blood counts. Make sure to let your healthcare provider know if you have chest pain, arrhythmia, or liver disease before starting Avonex.
Avonex: What Should I Tell My Healthcare Provider?
You should talk with your healthcare provider prior to taking Avonex® (interferon beta-1a) if you have:
- Depression or other mood disorders
- Liver disease, such as liver failure, cirrhosis, or hepatitis
- A seizure disorder or epilepsy
- Chest pain (angina)
- Congestive heart failure (CHF)
- An irregular heart rhythm (arrhythmia)
- Any allergies, including allergies to food, dyes, or preservatives.
Also, let your healthcare provider know if you are:
- Pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant
You should also be sure to tell your healthcare provider about all other medicines you are taking, including prescription and non-prescription medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements.
Specific Precautions and Warnings for Avonex
Warnings and precautions to be aware of prior to taking Avonex include the following:
- Interferon medications (including Avonex) may increase the risk of depression (see Avonex and Depression). Make sure your healthcare provider knows if you have depression or another mood disorder (such as bipolar disorder or manic depression) or if your depression seems to worsen while you are taking Avonex.
- Rarely, Avonex can cause dangerous allergic reactions. Report any symptoms of an allergic reaction (such as difficulty breathing, wheezing, itching, hives, and swelling) immediately to your healthcare provider.
- Avonex can decrease blood counts in some people, leading to low white blood cells (which increases the risk of infection), anemia, low platelets (which increases the risk of bleeding), or other problems. Your healthcare provider should make sure you do not develop these problems by using a simple blood test.
- Rarely, Avonex can cause liver damage. Make sure to let your healthcare provider know if you already have liver disease.
- Avonex vials (with dry powder) contain human albumin, which could theoretically transmit viruses or other infectious diseases. However, there has never been such a case of infection being passed through albumin. Avonex prefilled syringes do not contain albumin.
- Let your healthcare provider know if you have a seizure disorder, as Avonex may increase the risk of seizures.
- There have been rare cases of heart problems in people taking Avonex. It is not known if these cases were related to Avonex or how exactly Avonex may cause any heart problems. If you have a heart condition (such as congestive heart failure, chest pain, or an arrhythmia), your healthcare provider may need to monitor your heart more closely while you are taking Avonex.
- Rarely, there have been cases of autoimmune disorders (in which the body mistakenly attacks itself) in people taking Avonex. These disorders have affected the blood platelets, thyroid, and the liver.
- Avonex can interact with a few other medications (see Avonex Drug Interactions for more information).
- Avonex is considered a pregnancy Category C medication. This means that it may not be safe to take during pregnancy. Be sure to talk with your healthcare provider about the risks and benefits of using Avonex during pregnancy (see Avonex and Pregnancy).
- It is not known whether Avonex passes through breast milk. Therefore, if you are breastfeeding or plan to start, discuss this with your healthcare provider prior to taking the drug (see Avonex and Breastfeeding).