Many of us with a chronic illness such as multiple sclerosis (MS) end up on medications for many, many years. Some of the MS medications have known associations with big diseases, such as progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy [PML] for Tysabri and leukemia or cardiac damage with Novantrone.
However, for those of us hanging out on the CRAB (Copaxone, Rebif, Avonex, Betaseron) drugs year after year, occasionally one might wonder if perhaps there is some sort of long-term undesirable side effect or association that no one knows about yet.
Well, there is good news for those people on interferons (Rebif, Avonex and Betaseron). A European study examined data from a pooled global database on people using Rebif and found that use of this medication did NOT increase risk of cancer.
As a matter of fact, people who were on Rebif had lower rates of cancer (4.o cases per 1000 patient years) than people on placebos (6.4 cases per 1000 patient years), although this difference was not statistically significant. (What does this mean? Read Q. What Does it Mean When a Research Result is "Statistically Significant"?)
While I wouldn't necessarily switch to an interferon to lower my risk of cancer, I think it's refreshing to be able to bring good news about some of the medications that many of us depend on.