Making Sense of MS Research

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

Interferons for Secondary Progressive MS

This is a summary of the research about the effect of interferons (Avonex®, Betaferon®, Rebif®) in people with secondary progressive MS (SPMS) 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 April 2011, 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 SPMS. They found five trials, including 3122 participants. As at August 2012, there were no new RCTs conducted in this area.

Review question

What happens when people with SPMS take interferons?

The short answer

This review found that interferons are not beneficial in preventing disability in people with SPMS. While interferons can slightly reduce the chance of people with SPMS experiencing relapses they do not have any effect on the chance of disability getting worse. 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.