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Rebif and Depression

In clinical studies where side effects were documented with Rebif (interferon beta-1a), depression was reported in up to 25 percent of people taking the drug. However, a similar percentage of people taking a placebo in these studies also developed depression. Therefore, it is difficult to determine whether depression is actually caused by Rebif. Depression symptoms should be reported to a healthcare provider immediately.

Can Rebif Cause Depression?

Rebif® (interferon beta-1a) is a prescription multiple sclerosis (MS) treatment. It belongs to a group of medications known as interferons. According to data from clinical trials, depression is one of the possible Rebif side effects. Actually, depression seems to be a side effect of many interferon medications.

Understanding Clinical Trials

Clinical trials are designed to factor out many possible variables in order to measure the effectiveness and side effects of medications. During a study, some people are given the actual medication, while others are given a placebo, which looks like the actual medication but does not contain any of the active ingredients. In most studies, the people (and sometimes the healthcare providers) are "blinded," which means that they do not know if they are taking the real medication or the placebo. Since Rebif is given by injection, the placebo in Rebif studies was also an injection, although it contained no active ingredient.
Side effects occurred in people who were taking the medicine and in people who were taking a placebo. By studying both groups, it becomes easier to tell which side effects are definitely drug-related, which may be drug-related, and which have nothing to do with the drug. In clinical studies, up to 25 percent of people taking Rebif reported depression. However, a similar percentage of people taking a placebo also reported depression. Because depression is common among people with multiple sclerosis, it is difficult to tell whether any given case is actually caused by Rebif (see Multiple Sclerosis and Depression for more information). However, some factors (such as the timing of the onset of depression in relationship to the medication) may suggest that Rebif may (or may not) be causing or contributing to a particular case.
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