The active ingredient of Rebif® is interferon beta-1a. Interferons are proteins produced naturally in the human body to help fight infections and regulate the immune system. Some 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.
In clinical trials Rebif® significantly decreased the frequency of MS relapses and slowed down the accrual of disability.
Rebif® is taken three times a week by subcutaneous (under the skin) injection. You will receive a month’s supply which consists of twelve injections.
You can choose from four different delivery devices for Rebif®:
The slight differences in the delivery devices allows for customisation to the method which will suit you, and your lifestyle, best. For assistance and training on how to use the delivery devices please contact Merck Medical Information on 1800 073 243 Monday to Friday between the hours of 9.00am to 5.00pm or speak with your MS Nurse.
Rebif® helps most people with MS, but 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.
The most common side effects of Rebif® are flu-like symptoms including fever, chills, and muscular pain, headache or fatigue, itching or rash, abdominal pain, diarrhea or nausea, muscle pain or aches, back pain or painful joints, muscle stiffness or spasms, weakness, difficulty walking and increased sweating. You may also experience injection site reactions including redness, swelling, bruising and pain.
Your neurologist will assist you to assess the risks and the expected benefit of treatment with Rebif® prior to starting therapy and over the course of treatment. Your health professional can provide comprehensive information on the use of Rebif®, including precautions and side effects.
Rebif® is suspected to have caused or may be expected to cause, an increased 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 conventional interferon beta-1a 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.
Rebif® has been approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) for the treatment of patients with relapsing remitting MS and is available through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS). Your neurologist will need to obtain an authority to prescribe the medication for you.
For details of the criteria required to receive a prescription for Rebif® treatment through the PBS, please visit the official PBS website at: http://www.pbs.gov.au/medicine/item/8403G
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 Rebif® 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 do not keep Rebif® in stock. 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.
Rebif® should be stored at 2-8°C in the original packing to protect it from light. Should refrigeration be temporarily unavailable, Rebif can be stored at 25°C for up to 14 days, then put back in the refrigerator and used before the expiry date.
Merck has a toll free Medical Information and Customer Service line: 1800 073 243 Monday to Friday between the hours of 9.00am to 5.00pm.
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.