August 29, 2016
Recommended Topic Related To:


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Included as part of the PRECAUTIONS section.


Depression, Suicide, And Psychotic Disorders

Patients treated with AVONEX and their caregivers should be advised to report immediately any symptoms of depression, suicidal ideation, and/or psychosis to their prescribing physicians. If a patient develops depression or other severe psychiatric symptoms, cessation of AVONEX therapy should be considered.

Depression and suicide have been reported to occur with increased frequency in patients receiving AVONEX. In Study 1, the incidence of depression was similar in placebo-treated and in AVONEX-treated patients, but suicidal tendency was seen more frequently in AVONEXtreated patients (4% in AVONEX group vs. 1% in placebo group). In Study 2, there was a greater incidence of depression in AVONEX-treated patients than in placebo-treated patients (20% in AVONEX group vs. 13% in placebo group) [see Clinical Studies].

Additionally, there have been postmarketing reports of depression, suicidal ideation, and/or development of new or worsening of other pre-existing psychiatric disorders, including psychosis. For some of these patients, symptoms of depression improved upon cessation of AVONEX.

Hepatic Injury

Severe hepatic injury, including cases of hepatic failure, has been reported rarely in patients taking AVONEX. Asymptomatic elevation of hepatic transaminases has also been reported, and in some patients has recurred upon rechallenge with AVONEX. In some cases, these events have occurred in the presence of other drugs that have been associated with hepatic injury. The potential risk of AVONEX used in combination with known hepatotoxic drugs or other products (e.g., alcohol) should be considered prior to starting AVONEX, or before starting hepatotoxic drugs. Patients should be monitored for signs of hepatic injury [see Laboratory Tests].

Anaphylaxis And Other Allergic-Reactions

Anaphylaxis has been reported as a rare complication of AVONEX use. Other allergic reactions have included dyspnea, orolingual edema, skin rash and urticaria. Discontinue AVONEX if anaphylaxis or other allergic reactions occur.

Congestive Heart Failure

Patients with pre-existing congestive heart failure should be monitored for worsening of their cardiac condition during initiation of and continued treatment with AVONEX. While beta interferons do not have any known direct cardiac toxicity, during the postmarketing period cases of congestive heart failure, cardiomyopathy, and cardiomyopathy with congestive heart failure have been reported in patients without known predisposition to these events, and without other etiologies being established. In some cases, these events have been temporally related to the administration of AVONEX. In some of these instances recurrence upon rechallenge was observed.

Decreased Peripheral Blood Counts

Decreased peripheral blood counts in all cell lines, including rare pancytopenia and thrombocytopenia, have been reported from postmarketing experience in AVONEX-treated patients [see ADVERSE REACTIONS]. In some cases, platelet counts were below 10,000/microliter. Some cases recurred with rechallenge [see ADVERSE REACTIONS]. Patients should be monitored for symptoms or signs of decreased blood counts.

Thrombotic Microangiopathy

Cases of thrombotic microangiopathy (TMA), including thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura and hemolytic uremic syndrome, some fatal, have been reported with interferon beta products, including AVONEX. Cases have been reported several weeks to years after starting interferon beta products. Discontinue AVONEX if clinical symptoms and laboratory findings consistent with TMA occur, and manage as clinically indicated.


Seizures have been temporally associated with the use of beta interferons in clinical trials andpostmarketing safety surveillance. In the two placebo-controlled studies in multiple sclerosis (Studies 1 and 2), 4 patients receiving AVONEX experienced seizures, while no seizures occurred in the placebo group [see Clinical Studies]. Three of these 4 patients had no prior history of seizure [see ADVERSE REACTIONS]. It is not known whether these events were related to the effects of multiple sclerosis alone, to AVONEX, or to a combination of both.

Autoimmune Disorders

Postmarketing reports of autoimmune disorders of multiple target organs in AVONEX-treated patients included idiopathic thrombocytopenia, hyper- and hypothyroidism, and rare cases of autoimmune hepatitis. If AVONEX-treated patients develop a new autoimmune disorder, consider stopping the therapy.

Laboratory Tests

In addition to those laboratory tests normally required for monitoring patients with multiple sclerosis, complete blood and differential white blood cell counts, platelet counts, and blood chemistries, including liver function tests, are recommended during AVONEX therapy [see above]. Patients with myelosuppression may require more intensive monitoring of complete blood cell counts, with differential and platelet counts. Thyroid function should be monitored periodically. If patients have or develop symptoms of thyroid dysfunction (hypo- or hyperthyroidism), thyroid function tests should be performed according to standard medical practice.

Patient Counseling Information

See FDA-approved patient labeling (Medication Guide and Patient's Instructions for Use).

Instruct patients to carefully read the supplied AVONEX Medication Guide and caution patients not to change the AVONEX dose or schedule of administration without medical consultation.

Inform patients that the Prefilled Syringe tip cap of this product contains natural rubber latex which may cause allergic reactions.

Instruction on Self-injection Technique and Procedures

Provide appropriate instruction for reconstitution of AVONEX and methods of self-injection, including careful review of the AVONEX Medication Guide. Instruct patients in the use of aseptic technique when administering AVONEX.

Inform patients that their healthcare provider should show them or their caregiver how to prepare and inject AVONEX before administering the first dose. Their healthcare provider should watch the first AVONEX injection given. Tell patients not to re-use needles or syringes and instruct patients on safe disposal procedures. Inform patients to dispose of used needles and syringes in a puncture-resistant container and instruct the patient regarding safe disposal of full containers.

Advise patients:

  • of the importance of rotating areas of injection with each dose to minimize the likelihood of injection site reactions. [see Choose an Injection Site section of the Medication Guide].
  • NOT to inject area of the body where the skin is irritated, reddened, bruised, infected or scarred in any way
  • to check the injection site after 2 hours for redness, swelling, or tenderness
  • contact their healthcare provider if they have a skin reaction and it does not clear up in a few days

Advise patients that AVONEX should not be used during pregnancy unless the potential benefit justifies the potential risk to the fetus [see Use in Special Population].


Advise patients of the symptoms of depression, suicidal ideation, or psychotic disorders as they have been reported with the use of AVONEX and instruct patients to report them immediately to their physician [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS].

Liver Disease

Advise patients that severe hepatic injury, including hepatic failure, has been reported during the use of AVONEX. Advise patients of symptoms of hepatic dysfunction, and instruct patients to report them immediately to their physician [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS].

Allergic Reactions And Anaphylaxis

Advise patients of the symptoms of allergic reactions and anaphylaxis, and instruct patients to seek immediate medical attention if these symptoms occur [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS].

Congestive Heart Failure

Advise patients that worsening of pre-existing congestive heart failure has been reported in patients using AVONEX. Advise patients of symptoms of worsening cardiac condition, and instruct patients to report them immediately to their physician [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS].


Advise patients that seizures have been reported in patients using AVONEX. Instruct patients to report seizures immediately to their physician [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS].

Flu-like Symptoms

Inform patients that flu-like symptoms are common following initiation of therapy with AVONEX [see DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION and ADVERSE REACTIONS]. Advise patients that starting with a lower dose than 30 micrograms and increasing the dose over 3 weeks reduces the incidence and severity of flu-like symptoms.

Nonclinical Toxicology

Carcinogenesis, Mutagenesis, And Impairment Of Fertility


The carcinogenic potential of AVONEX has not been tested in animals.


Interferon beta was not mutagenic when tested in an in vitro bacterial reverse mutation (Ames) test or in an in vitro cytogenetic assay in human lymphocytes.

Impairment Of Fertility

In monkeys administered interferon beta by subcutaneous injection (8 to 15 doses of 1.25 mcg/kg or 50 mcg/kg) over the course of one menstrual cycle, menstrual irregularities, anovulation, and decreased serum progesterone levels were observed at the higher dose. These effects were reversible after discontinuation of drug. The no-effect dose (1.25 mcg/kg) is approximately 2 times the recommended weekly dose in humans (30 mcg) on a mg/m² basis.

Use In Specific Populations


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

In pregnant monkeys given interferon beta at 100 times the recommended weekly human dose (based upon a body surface area [mg/m²] comparison), no teratogenic or other adverse effects on fetal development were observed. Abortifacient activity was evident following 3 to 5 doses at this level. No abortifacient effects were observed in monkeys treated at 2 times the recommended weekly human dose (based upon mg/m²).

Nursing Mothers

It is not known whether AVONEX is excreted in human milk.

Pediatric Use

Safety and effectiveness in pediatric patients have not been established.

Geriatric Use

Clinical studies of AVONEX did not include sufficient numbers of patients aged 65 and over to determine whether they respond differently than younger patients.

This monograph has been modified to include the generic and brand name in many instances.

Last reviewed on RxList: 5/5/2016


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