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Rebif (Interferon Beta-1a) - Warnings and Precautions



Depression and Suicide

REBIF (interferon beta-1a) should be used with caution in patients with depression, a condition that is common in people with multiple sclerosis. Depression, suicidal ideation, and suicide attempts have been reported to occur with increased frequency in patients receiving interferon compounds, including REBIF. In addition, there have been postmarketing reports of suicide in patients treated with REBIF. Patients should be advised to report immediately any symptoms of depression and/or suicidal ideation to the prescribing physician. If a patient develops depression, cessation of treatment with REBIF should be considered.

Hepatic Injury

Severe liver injury, including some cases of hepatic failure requiring liver transplantation, has been reported rarely in patients taking REBIF. Symptoms of liver dysfunction began from one to six months following the initiation of REBIF. If jaundice or other symptoms of liver dysfunction appear, treatment with REBIF should be discontinued immediately due to the potential for rapid progression to liver failure.

Asymptomatic elevation of hepatic transaminases (particularly SGPT) is common with interferon therapy [see Adverse Reactions]. REBIF should be initiated with caution in patients with active liver disease, alcohol abuse, increased serum SGPT (> 2.5 times ULN), or a history of significant liver disease. Also, the potential risk of REBIF used in combination with known hepatotoxic products should be considered prior to REBIF administration, or when adding new agents to the regimen of patients already on REBIF. Reduction of REBIF dose should be considered if SGPT rises above 5 times the upper limit of normal. The dose may be gradually re-escalated when enzyme levels have normalized [see Warnings and Precautions; and Dosage and Administration].

Anaphylaxis and Other Allergic Reactions

Anaphylaxis has been reported as a rare complication of REBIF use. Other allergic reactions have included skin rash and urticaria, and have ranged from mild to severe without a clear relationship to dose or duration of exposure. Several allergic reactions, some severe, have occurred after prolonged use. Discontinue REBIF if anaphylaxis occurs.

Injection Site Reactions including Necrosis

In controlled clinical trials, injection site reactions occurred more frequently in REBIF-treated patients (92% in the 44 mcg group and 89% in the 22 mcg group) than in placebo-treated patients (39%) and at a higher frequency in REBIF treated patients (83%) than in AVONEX-treated patients (28%). Injection site necrosis also occurred more frequently in REBIF-treated patients (3% in the 44 mcg group and 1% in the 22 mcg group) than in placebo-treated patients during the two years of therapy. All events resolved with conservative management.

Injection site reactions including injection site pain, erythema, edema, cellulitis, abscess, and necrosis have been reported in the postmarketing setting. Some occurred more than 2 years after initiation of REBIF. Necrosis occurred at single and at multiple injection sites. Some cases of injection site necrosis required treatment with intravenous antibiotics and surgical intervention (debridement and skin grafting).

Patient understanding and use of aseptic self-injection techniques and procedures should be periodically evaluated, particularly if injection site necrosis has occurred. Patients should be advised of the importance of rotating sites of injection with each dose and not reusing syringes. Patients should be advised against injecting an area which is inflamed, edematous, erythematous, ecchymotic, or has any other signs of infection. These signs should be reported to a healthcare professional immediately.

Decreased Peripheral Blood Counts

Decreased peripheral blood counts in all cell lines, including pancytopenia, have been reported in REBIF-treated patients. In controlled clinical trials, leukopenia occurred at a higher frequency in REBIF-treated patients (36% in 44 mcg group and 28% in 22 mcg group) than in placebo-treated patients (14%) and at a higher frequency in REBIF-treated patients (6%) compared to the AVONEX-treated patients (<1%). Thrombocytopenia and anemia occurred more frequently in 44 mcg REBIF-treated patients (8% and 5%, respectively) than in placebo-treated patients (2% and 3%, respectively). In a pooled analysis of 7 placebo controlled trials with REBIF doses of 22 mcg or 44 mcg, the rate of pancytopenia (in subjects with normal baseline values who developed laboratory values less than the lower limit of normal for all 3 hematology parameters simultaneously) was higher in the total REBIF group (5.5 per 1000 subject-year) than in the placebo group (1.2 per 1000 subject-year). Patients should be monitored for symptoms or signs of decreased blood counts. Monitoring of complete blood and differential white blood cell counts is also recommended [see Dosage and Administration and Warnings and Precautions].


Caution should be exercised when administering REBIF to patients with pre-existing seizure disorders. Seizures have been temporally associated with the use of beta interferons, including REBIF, in clinical trials and in postmarketing reports.

Laboratory Tests

In addition to those laboratory tests normally required for monitoring patients with multiple sclerosis, blood cell counts and liver function tests are recommended at regular intervals (1, 3, and 6 months) following introduction of REBIF therapy and then periodically thereafter in the absence of clinical symptoms. Patients with myelosuppression may require more intensive monitoring of complete blood cell counts, with differential and platelet counts [see Dosage and Administration and Warnings and Precautions]. New or worsening thyroid abnormalities have developed in some patients treated with REBIF. Thyroid function tests are recommended every 6 months in patients with a history of thyroid dysfunction or as clinically indicated.



Pregnancy Category C

There are no adequate and well-controlled studies in pregnant women. REBIF should be used during pregnancy only if the potential benefit justifies the potential risk to the fetus.

In a study in pregnant cynomolgus monkeys, interferon beta was administered daily (intramuscular doses approximately 1, 2, and 7 times the maximum recommended cumulative weekly human dose, based on body surface area) either throughout the period of organogenesis or later in pregnancy (gestation day 90 to term). No adverse effects on embryofetal development were observed; however, the possibility of adverse effects cannot be ruled out because of the small number of animals tested (six per dose group at each developmental period).

Nursing Mothers

It is not known whether REBIF is excreted in human milk. Because many drugs are excreted in human milk, caution should be exercised when REBIF is administered to a nursing woman.

Pediatric Use

Safety and effectiveness in pediatric patients have not been established.

Geriatric Use

Clinical studies of REBIF did not include sufficient numbers of subjects aged 65 and over to determine whether they respond differently than younger subjects. In general, dose selection for an elderly patient should be cautious, usually starting at the low end of the dosing range, reflecting the greater frequency of decreased hepatic, renal or cardiac function, and of concomitant disease or other drug therapy.

Page last updated: 2014-05-21

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