Multiple Sclerosis Home > Avonex

Avonex is a prescription drug that is used for the treatment of multiple sclerosis. It is believed that the medication decreases nerve damage by preventing the immune system from attacking and destroying the protective coating around nerve fibers. Avonex, which comes in injection form, is injected into muscle once a week. While most people tolerate the medication well, side effects are possible, such as fever, chills, and headache.

What Is Avonex?

Avonex® (interferon beta-1a) is a prescription medication used to treat multiple sclerosis (MS). It is taken as a weekly injection into a muscle.
(Click Avonex Uses for more information on what it is used for, including possible off-label uses.)

Who Makes Avonex?

The medication is made by Biogen Idec, Inc.

How Does It Work?

Avonex is identical to a 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. It is not fully understood how this drug 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 Avonex may work by limiting this immune system response, decreasing the damage to the nerves.
Because Avonex is a glycoprotein (made up of protein and carbohydrate), it would be digested and inactivated by the digestive system if taken by mouth. For this reason, the medication must be injected to bypass the digestive tract.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD;
Last updated/reviewed:
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