The Avonex Pen
Making the Decision
I've had multiple sclerosis since late 2007 and have only ever been on Avonex, an interferon beta medicine I inject once a week in my thigh. The needle I always used was 1.25" long, although I once read on a blog somewhere that you could get approved to use a shorter (.75" long) needle for your injections. Recently, they've come out with the Avonex pen, which is much more convenient and, according to the Avonex website, less painful and 9 out of 10 people preferred it to the regular injections. The main reason for me to switch to the Avonex pen was the shorter needle. I started out doing my injections just fine, but something happened in those few years and I suddenly dreaded doing my shot. I would skip it for a couple of weeks or just stop doing it for a month or two. When I got pregnant last year, I got a little reprieve from it (they don't recommend you take Avonex during pregnancy-it's not known if it's harmful to your baby), so this year it's been super hard for me to get back in the groove of things. Enter the Avonex pen.
Like I said, the main reason I chose to switch to the Avonex pen is the needle length. The pen has the shorter needle option: 0.75", which is fantastic. I know it's only a half inch difference, but that's a whole half inch you're not sticking into your leg!! Another benefit is that it's just one click. It's called a pen for a reason. You click the end of it just like a regular pen, hold it in for ten seconds, then pull it out. It's super simple and I think most people would find this simplicity very beneficial.
Before I decided to switch to the pen, I found out the cost. I have health insurance, but I wanted to make sure I could afford it (recent college graduate/new mom here!!) I list this under benefits because it is the same price for me. I don't know how much difference it is if you don't have insurance or if you have different insurance. I definitely suggest you check with your specialty pharmacy before you proceed with your new prescription!
I know I mentioned it above, but avonex.com says that 9 out of 10 people said the pen is less painful than their regular injections and they would prefer it! I think that counts for like 3 points on the benefits side!
Yes, There are Disadvantages
There are a couple of things that count against the Avonex pen, one of which is a BIG thing for me. Actually, now that I've started thinking about it, I can only think of this one disadvantage but it's so big for me that it counts a couple of times. Pathetic, right?
It's the pen part. Meaning, I hate that there's just the one click and bam you're done. I know I listed this as a benefit. That's because if I had a lick of sense, it would be a benefit like everyone else. It's a control thing. When I had the regular shot, I could go slow (thus, more painful for me) and stop if it started to sting. Now, it's just breathe in, breathe out, click, NEEDLE!! Okay...maybe it's more like needle (that's miniature script, get it??). In fact, I'm such a pansy that my boyfriend actually does the clicking, and I usually don't even feel it. The click is so loud and scary that I freak out, but then the needle is in and we're counting to ten and it's over. It's more painful when he pulls the needle out because he can't pull it out in a straight line so he somehow manages to pull it against my skin on the way out. Yeah, I know. He's getting better at it though. I'm not quite ready to take the reins yet, or in this case, the pen.
Make Your Choice!
I decided to go to the pen and don't regret it at all. I regret that I'm such a scaredy cat and can't mash the little button. When I got the first month's supply in, I said "I'm going to do it for this month and decide when I have to reorder what I want to do." That was three months ago. I love it. I think it's a personal decision, and only a personal decision. So make your choice! And do what I did: tell yourself if you don't like it, you'll go back to the old (longer needle, more painful!!) injections.
I wrote this article a few months ago about switching to the Avonex pen, and I want to give you an update in case you still aren't sure about switching. It's going GREAT. My boyfriend actually does it, because I just can't press the little button, but it's still good. I will be honest: I don't do it every week. That's something I'm trying to change, but I do it probably every other week. I know there's no excuse for this, but it's just because I learned to avoid my weekly injections when I was doing it with the regular shot and I just can't accept the fact that the pen doesn't hurt. I will say though, it has freaked my boyfriend out a couple times. I think once he hit a vessel or something because there was a lot of blood. That's not a problem that's pen-specific though. I'm usually really adamant about taking advil when I inject and I didn't last week. I had no side effects whatsoever. Overall, the transition to the pen has been great. I really hope you'll talk to your doctor. You can always get a month of the pen and if you hate it, you can switch back.