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More Details on Drugs for Multiple Sclerosis

Rebif (Interferon Beta-1a)
Rebif is a multiple sclerosis medication taken three times a week. Rebif is injected under the skin, usually in the thigh, back of the arm, or abdomen. The injection site is changed with each injection so that the skin doesn't become irritated. These injections are usually given in the patient's home by the patient or a family member. An autoinjector is available to assist with the injections.
 
Side effects from Rebif include aching and fever (flu-like symptoms). These begin about an hour after the injection and last about eight hours. The flu-like symptoms usually improve with aspirin, Tylenol, or ibuprofen. There is usually a red spot at the site of the injection, which may take several weeks to go away. Blood tests need to be checked on occasion to monitor liver function and white blood cell levels. Like Avonex, this multiple sclerosis medication must be refrigerated.
 

Copaxone

Copaxone is a synthetic (man-made) string of amino acids (a protein) that resembles myelin basic protein. Myelin basic protein is a component of the myelin that insulates nerve fibers in the brain. While the action of this medication is not fully known, it is thought that Copaxone tricks the immune system by serving as a myelin decoy.
 
Copaxone is taken every day. It is injected under the skin, usually in the thigh, back of the arm, or abdomen. The injection site is changed with each injection so that the skin doesn't become irritated. These injections are usually given in the patient's home by the patient or a family member. An autoinjector is available to assist with the injection of this multiple sclerosis medication.
 
Side effects from Copaxone are few. It is common for a red spot to form on the skin at the site of the injection. This spot goes away after two to three days. In rare cases, patients may get a reaction called a systemic reaction. This systemic reaction is not considered to be dangerous. It occurs immediately after an injection and involves:
 
  • Chest pain
  • Flushing or redness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Awareness of a strong heartbeat
  • Anxiety.
 
The reaction does not require medical treatment and resolves within 15 to 20 minutes. A few cases lasting up to 45 minutes have been documented; however, this reaction occurs only in about 15 percent of patients. Those who get these reactions usually have it only once. In one study, the worst case had 7 episodes in a 2-year period.
 
Blood tests are not needed for this multiple sclerosis medication. While Copaxone must be refrigerated, it can also be stored at room temperature for up to a week.
 
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