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Avonex approved by FDA for patients with early multiple sclerosis

CAMBRIDGE, MASS., Feb. 7, 2003 -- Biogen announced that the FDA has approved Avonex (interferon beta-1a) to include treatment of patients with a first multiple sclerosis (MS) attack if brain MRI scan abnormalities characteristic of MS are shown.

The first sign that a patient may have MS is a single, clinical event. Until now, standard practice has been to treat MS only after a patient experiences at least two clinical events. Avonex is the first treatment approved for MS patients who have their first clinical MS attack and have a brain MRI scan that suggests MS. This use was approved in Europe in 2002.

"Physicians can now initiate therapy with Avonex at the first signs and symptoms of MS, rather than waiting until the disease has further progressed and patients have experienced a second attack," said study investigator R. Philip (Rip) Kinkel, M.D., Director of the Multiple Sclerosis Center at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, MA. "We are continuing to follow the patients from the CHAMPS study in what is called the CHAMPIONS study to determine if we can actually alter the long-term course of the disease through early initiation of Avonex therapy."

The new labeling for Avonex includes updated safety information based on post-marketing experience. The revisions to the label were to the warnings, precautions and adverse events sections. A new patient Medication Guide will be available to provide safety information on Avonex.

The approval was based on a three-year research study called CHAMPS (Controlled High Risk Subjects Avonex Multiple Sclerosis Prevention Study). Results of the CHAMPS study were published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) in September 2000 and demonstrated efficacy for this use in early MS. The primary endpoint was time from the first to a second MS attack.

Avonex-treated subjects experienced a 44 percent decrease in the rate of developing a second attack when compared to placebo.

The most common side effects associated with Avonex treatment are flu-like symptoms, myalgia, fever, fatigue, headache, chills, nausea, vomiting, pain and asthenia. Avonex should be used with caution in patients with depression or other mood disorders and in patients with seizure disorders. Avonex should not be used by pregnant women.  Patients with cardiac disease should be closely monitored. Patients should also be monitored for signs of hepatic injury.

Routine periodic blood chemistry and hematology tests are recommended during treatment with Avonex.  Rare cases of anaphylaxis have been reported. Complete prescribing information is available at

Source: Biogen

Posted: February 2003