Making Sense of MS Research

Summaries of independent,
high-quality research about multiple sclerosis treatments

Interferons for Primary Progressive MS

This is a summary of the research about the effect of interferons (Avonex®, Betaferon®, Rebif®) in people with primary progressive multiple sclerosis (PPMS) written in plain language for people with MS and their family members.  It is based on a report (known as a systematic review) that was produced by The Cochrane Collaboration.

In August 2009, the authors of the report searched for all the randomised controlled trials (RCTs) on this topic and combined the results.  They aimed to provide an overall picture of whether interferons are effective in PPMS.  They found two trials, including 123 participants.  As at August 2012, there were no new RCTs conducted in this area.

Review question

What happens when people with PPMS take interferons?

The short answer

There is limited scientific data about the effect of interferons in people with primary progressive multiple sclerosis. The available evidence suggests that interferons are not effective in stopping disability from getting worse in people with PPMS. More studies would allow us to be more certain about the result. The side effects of interferons most commonly include flu-like symptoms, headache and pain and redness at the injection site but can include a range of others.

Do these results look different from what you’ve read elsewhere? See the FAQ page for an explanation. You can also discuss the results with your local MS Australia office.