A randomized open label study of pain medication (naproxen, acetaminophen and ibuprofen) for controlling side effects during initiation of IFN β-la therapy and during its ongoing use for relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis

M. Patricia Leuschen, Mary Filipi, Kathleen Healey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

19 Scopus citations


Multiple sclerosis (MS) patients initiating IFN β-1a, Avonex, therapy (Group 1, n =30) or experiencing side effects after 6 months on therapy (Group 2, n = 30) were randomized for 5 weeks open label adjunct therapy to naproxen (Aleve®), acetaminophen (Tylenol®) or ibuprofen (Advil®). Our hypothesis was that non-prescription pain medications are effective in decreasing or alleviating the side effects associated with IFN β-1a therapy. Contrary to the hypothesis, most patients in both groups continued to report side effects on all pain medications. After 5 weeks, headache, fever chills and injection site pain were low in ≤50% of patients. Moderate to significant fatigue, muscle or joint pain continued in most patients. As a quality of life measure, the Modified Fatigue Impact Scale (mFIS) improved for Group 1 on naproxen or ibuprofen with greatest improvement in physical subset (P =0.002 for naproxen and P <0.01 for ibuprofen). Total mFIS for Group 1 on acetaminophen improved (P = 0.04) due to improved cognitive subset rather than physical subset. Group 2, with side effects initially, reported less significant fatigue (severity 5-10) but more moderate fatigue (severity 2-4) at study end for all three medications. All medications improved cognitive subset (P = 0.05). Physical mFIS subset did not improve for Group 2 on acetaminophen, but did with naproxen (P = 0.05) or ibuprofen (P = 0.03). Naproxen and ibuprofen were more effective than acetaminophen in minimizing physical side effects of IFN β-1a. None of the three pain medications tested were as effective as hypothesized for minimizing fatigue or muscle and joint pain.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)636-642
Number of pages7
JournalMultiple Sclerosis
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Dec 1 2004



  • Acetaminophen
  • Ibuprofen
  • Interferon β
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Naproxen
  • Side effects

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology

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