Avonex injector pens are convenient, user-friendly injection devices for people receiving interferon beta-1a therapy for multiple sclerosis.

But to ensure the efficacy of your Avonex treatment, it is essential to have a thorough understanding of how to use, store, and handle your pens.
So, let’s equip you with the knowledge and confidence to use, store, and handle your Avonex pens:

  • Step-by-step guide on how to use Avonex pens
  • Critical aspects of storing Avonex at the right temperature and light conditions
  • Valuable tips for traveling with Avonex 

Whether you’re new to Avonex or seeking to enhance your understanding, here’s your new go-to resource!

4AllFamily travel cooling cases and USB fridges for injections and temperature-sensitive drugs
Note: While this article provides valuable information, it does not substitute medical advice from your healthcare provider. Always consult your doctor for personalized guidance and recommendations regarding Avonex treatment.

What is Avonex?

Avonex is an FDA-approved injectable medication used to treat relapsing forms of multiple sclerosis (MS). It is a brand name for the active drug interferon beta-1a, a protein that helps regulate the immune system and reduce inflammation. Interferon beta-1a is sold under different brand names, including Avonex, Rebif Rebidose, Rebif Titration, and others.
Avonex is administered through intramuscular injections and is typically given once a week, although dosage and frequency may vary depending on your doctor’s prescription.
Avonex is a potent medication that can only be delivered with a medical prescription. It should never be used without a doctor’s guidance and supervision. Like any medication, Avonex can cause side effects, including flu-like symptoms, injection site reactions, depression, liver problems, and others.

Related article: How to Store Copaxone at Home & While Traveling!

Multiple sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic neurological disease that affects the central nervous system. It is an autoimmune disease, meaning the body's immune system mistakenly attacks its own healthy cells and tissues.
In MS, the immune system targets the protective covering of nerve fibers called myelin. When myelin is damaged or destroyed, nerve signals are disrupted, leading to a wide range of symptoms.
The symptoms of multiple sclerosis vary widely from one person to the other and can affect different parts of the body. However, common symptoms include fatigue, difficulty walking, muscle weakness or spasms, problems with coordination and balance, numbness or tingling sensations, blurred vision or loss of vision, problems with speech or swallowing, and cognitive impairment.
MS typically occurs in episodes of symptom flare-ups known as relapses or exacerbations, followed by periods of remission when symptoms improve or disappear partially or completely. This pattern is known as relapsing-remitting MS, the most common form of the disease. However, MS can progress steadily in some cases, without distinct relapses and remissions, leading to a gradual accumulation of disability. This form is known as primary progressive MS.
Multiple sclerosis is a complex and individualized condition. The course and progression of the disease can vary widely among individuals. As of today, there is no cure for multiple sclerosis. However, different treatment options exist to manage and reduce the symptoms and slow the progression.
Avonex (interferon beta-1a) is one of them. But it's important to understand that not everyone responds the same to these injections. So, always discuss treatment options with your healthcare provider.

How does Avonex work?

Interferon beta-1a, the active ingredient in Avonex, is a synthetic version of a naturally occurring protein in the body. It modulates the body's immune response and helps reduce the frequency and severity of multiple sclerosis relapses.
It can also help slow down the progression of disability associated with multiple sclerosis. Avonex is commonly prescribed for people with relapsing-remitting MS, where symptoms occur in episodes followed by periods of remission.

Related article: A Comprehensive Guide to Storing and Travelling With Kesimpta.

Avonex pen vs. Avonex syringes

Avonex is typically injected once a week at home by the patients themselves. It’s available both as autoinjector pens and prefilled syringes.
Avonex Pen is a convenient and user-friendly option for self-injecting your MS medication. It is a prefilled, single-dose autoinjector with a covered needle that is half the length of the needle used in prefilled syringes. This design helps reduce discomfort and apprehension associated with injections.
Besides, the Avonex pen is prefilled with the appropriate dose of interferon beta-1a, eliminating the need for reconstitution or dosage calculation.
Avonex prefilled syringes are a cheaper alternative. They’re also prefilled with your dose of interferon beta-1a, but the injection process is slightly different.

How to Use an Avonex Pen?

Before self-injecting Avonex, you must receive proper training from your healthcare provider. Additionally, you can refer to the user's instructions in the leaflet provided with your medication.
Please note that the following steps to use an Avonex pen do not replace your doctor's advice or the manufacturer's instructions.

Step 1. Prepare the Avonex pen

Gather all the necessary supplies for the injection, including the Avonex Pen, a sterile single-use needle, an alcohol swab, an adhesive bandage, and a puncture-resistant sharps container for disposal.
Take the Avonex pen out of the refrigerator about 30 minutes before the injection to allow it to reach room temperature. Injecting room-temperature drugs reduces pain during the injection. But never warm your injections with external heat sources, as it could damage the medicine inside.
Check your Avonex pen's expiration date to ensure it has not passed. Then, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water.

Step 2. Connect the needle to the pen

Take off the Avonex pen cap. You should now see the glass tip of the syringe. Do not touch it; put your pen down on a flat surface.
Take a new disposable needle provided with your Avonex pen. Never reuse needles. Pull off the needle foil cover and press the needle onto the pen glass syringe tip. Gently screw it clockwise until it’s firmly attached.
Hold your Avonex pen in one hand with the needle pointing away. Pull up on the injector shield with your other hand until the plastic needle cover pops off.

Step 3. Prepare for injection

Select an appropriate injection site, typically the upper thigh. Remember that Avonex is administered via intramuscular injections. Clean the injection site with an alcohol wipe and let it dry without touching.

Step 4. Inject Avonex

Place the Avonex pen on your injection site at a 90° angle and firmly push it against your skin to release the safety lock.
Keep pushing down the pen while you press the activation button with your thumb. You should hear a “click” indicating that the injection has started. Count to 10.

Step 5. After the injection

Remove the pen from your skin. Use a pad to apply pressure to the injection site for a few seconds. If you’re bleeding, apply an adhesive bandage.
After the injection, check that the circular display window on your Avonex pen has turned yellow. It means you've received your total dose of Avonex.
Secure your Avonex pen and needles as instructed by the manufacturer and dispose of them in a sharps container. Do not throw away in your household trash.

Avonex injection sites

Avonex is an intramuscular injection, meaning it must be injected into the muscles, as opposed to subcutaneous injections that are sent into the fat tissues under the skin.
The most common injection sites recommended for Avonex are the upper outer thigh and the outer area of the upper arm. These areas provide a good muscle mass for the injection and are less likely to cause discomfort.
Additionally, you should rotate injection sites with each weekly dose of Avonex to minimize the risk of reactions. Do not inject Avonex where your skin is irritated, reddened, bruised, or scarred.
It is recommended to check the injection site about 2 hours after each injection. If you have a skin reaction, like redness or swelling, that does not go away after two days, contact your doctor.
In any case, ask your healthcare provider about Avonex injection sites and techniques. They can provide personalized guidance and address any concerns you may have.

Related article: 10 Tips That Work to Inject Insulin Without Pain!

How to Store Your Avonex Pens?

Like most injections for multiple sclerosis and other autoimmune diseases, Avonex is an unstable drug that requires refrigeration and temperature control. Storing your Avonex pens as instructed by the manufacturer is absolutely essential to maintain their potency, efficiency, and safety.

Storage temperatures

According to Biogen Inc, the manufacturer of Avonex, your MS injector pens (and prefilled syringes) must be stored in the refrigerator between 36°F to 46°F (2°C to 8°C) until use.
When refrigeration is impossible, you may store your Avonex pens at room temperature up to 77°F (25°C) for a maximum of 7 days.
Additional important information regarding Avonex storage includes:

  • Do not freeze Avonex pens or syringes. Freezing temperatures can destroy the medicine inside. If one of your injection devices has accidentally frozen, do not use it, even if it has thawed afterward. 
  • Never expose Avonex to temperatures higher than 77°F (25°C), even briefly. 
  • Keep Avonex pens and syringes in their original packaging to protect them from light too

Related article: How Long Can Refrigerated Medicines Be Left Out?

What happens if Avonex is not refrigerated?

Laboratory tests have shown that interferon beta-1a, the active drug in Avonex, is only stable for 7 days when not refrigerated. Passed that time, it starts degrading, losing potency and efficacy.
Avonex is classified as a biological medication, meaning it’s a complex molecule derived from parts of living organisms. Such biologics are very sensitive to light and temperature conditions, and refrigeration is often the only solution to maintain their potency. The same goes for most injectable drugs, including insulin, Ozempic, and Mounjaro for diabetes, Humira and Enbrel for arthritis, Wegovy and Saxenda for weight loss, Aimovig and Emgality for migraines, and many others.
Related article: How to Ship Refrigerated Drugs?

When does Avonex expire?

Avonex actually has two expiration dates:

  • A labeled expiration date printed on the pens or syringes of Avonex. It indicates the date until the medication is guaranteed to remain stable and effective when stored as instructed. Always check the expiration date before using an Avonex pen or syringe to ensure your injection is safe for use.
  • An expiration date after 7 days out of the refrigerator. As mentioned above, Avonex can stay unrefrigerated (up to 25°C or 77°F) for a maximum of 7 days. After this period, the medication should be discarded, even if the labeled expiration date has not yet passed.

If you're on Avonex injections for multiple sclerosis, make sure to keep track of both these expiration dates! Never use expired Avonex. Besides not being safe, it could seriously impact the success of your treatment.

How to tell if Avonex has gone bad?

Avonex is a clear and colorless liquid. If you observe any changes in appearance, such as discoloration, cloudiness, or the presence of lumps or particles, it is a strong indication that Avonex may have gone bad. In such cases, do not use it.
However, visual cues may not always be sufficient to determine if Avonex has expired or gone bad. Sometimes, there may be no visible signs of spoilage. Therefore, if you have any doubts about the condition of your Avonex, it’s best not to use it and get a new injection pen or syringe from the refrigerator.

Traveling with Avonex

Traveling with multiple sclerosis can be stressful, and even more so when you rely on refrigerated injections like Avonex, Copaxone, or Kesimpta.
We understand that. We understand the importance of maintaining the effectiveness of your medications when traveling. That’s why we proudly offer innovative, reliable, and convenient travel solutions to refrigerate drugs while traveling. Whether you are going on a short weekend trip or an extended journey across the globe, we’ve got you covered!
Related article: How to Travel With Refrigerated Medications?

Avonex Travel Kits (fridge temperature)

Anyone traveling with Avonex for more than 7 days needs to keep their injection refrigerated no matter what. Check out our medical-grade portable travel refrigerators and cooling cases!

Travel cooling cases and mini refrigerators for medical use
What about you? Have you been prescribed Avonex for multiple sclerosis? What are your thoughts on that medication?  

May 16, 2023

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The information presented in this article and its comment section is for informational purposes only and is not intended as a replacement for professional medical advice. Always consult with a qualified healthcare provider for any medical concerns or questions you may have.