The active ingredient of Betaferon® is interferon beta-1b. Interferons are proteins produced naturally in the human body to help fight infections and regulate the immune system. Beta interferons have been shown to slow down activity and disease progression in MS. They do this by helping regulate the immune system, reducing attacks on myelin or nerves. Researchers are still investigating exactly how this process works.
Clinical trials found that Betaferon® (interferon beta -1b) has a significant beneficial effect in people with relapsing-remitting MS by reducing the accumulation of permanent physical disability, exacerbation frequency and disease activity measured by active lesions on brain magnetic resonance images (MRI).
Betaferon® is given as a subcutaneous injection every second day, meaning an injection under the skin. A month’s supply consists of fifteen injections.
Bayer also offers a choice of autoinjectors to assist patients with managing regular injections as well as a patient app to help with injection reminders and rotation of injection sites.
Betaferon® helps most people with MS, but it may have side effects in some people. All medications have side effects. It is important to notify your health professional if you experience any side effects or are feeling unwell.
Side effects can relate to the injection site and/or to an overall body side effect.
Injection site side effects include redness, swelling, bruising, discolouration, pain, itching, allergy. If you experience multiple skin sores, very severe sores or breakage of the skin, discuss this with your health professional. Other common side effects include flu-like symptoms including fever, chills, muscular pain, headache, tiredness, painful joints and sweating. You may also experience nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, constipation, abdominal pain, dizziness, anxiety, nervousness, infected sinus and conjunctivitis.
Your doctor or pharmacist can provide comprehensive information on the use of Betaferon®, including precautions and side effects.
Betaferon® is suspected to have caused or may be expected to cause, an incidence of human fetal malformations or irreversible damage. These drugs may also have adverse pharmacological effects.
If you are currently pregnant or trying to become pregnant, please discuss your individual circumstances and treatment options with your neurologist or healthcare team.
The levels of interferon beta-1b in breastmilk are minuscule. In addition, because interferon is poorly absorbed orally, it is not likely to reach the bloodstream of the infant.
If you are currently breastfeeding, please discuss your individual circumstances and treatment options with your neurologist or healthcare team.
Betaferon® has been approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) and is available through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS). Please discuss with your neurologist whether Betaferon® is the right treatment for you. Your neurologist will need to obtain an authority to prescribe the medication for you. There are a number of criteria you must meet before your doctor receives authority to write this prescription.
For details of the criteria you need to meet to receive Betaferon ® through the PBS, please visit the official PBS website at: https://www.pbs.gov.au/medicine/item/8101J
You will need to click on the red Authority Required (STREAMLINED) link.
If you are eligible for medications through the PBS, you will need to pay a contribution fee each time your prescription is dispensed. The Federal Government pays for the remaining cost. The amount of the contribution fee depends upon whether or not you have a pension or concession card. The amount of this fee is set each year by the Federal Government.
Further information about the PBS, your entitlements and details regarding the PBS safety net (which protects patients and their families requiring a large number of PBS items) is available through the Medicare Australia website at: www.medicare.gov.au
If you are not eligible for Betaferon® through the PBS, for example if you are a visitor from overseas, your neurologist may write a private prescription. In this instance you will have to pay the full cost to the pharmacy that dispenses your medication. You will need to request a quote from your pharmacist for the price of any medication which is not subsidised by the PBS.
Most pharmacies will not keep Betaferon® in stock. Instead, they will place an order with the manufacturer to have stock delivered especially for you. It is therefore important to let your pharmacist know a few days before you need the medication so that they can order it in for you.
Betaferon® needs to be stored below 25°C. If the outside temperature is warm it is a good idea to take your medication home in an ice cooler. Your pharmacist may be able to assist with this.
Bayer Australia runs a toll-free helpline and Patient Support Program called Betaplus® which you can contact at 1800 557 960 for further assistance.
Speak to your neurologist about what treatment best suits your individual circumstances.
MS Nurses can also provide information, training and ongoing support in managing your immunotherapy.
MS Australia does not recommend any specific disease-modifying treatment for people living with MS. Decisions about any treatments, taking into consideration the potential benefits and side effects for each individual’s circumstances, should be made in careful consultation with the person’s neurologist.