In some cases, treatment can slow the pace of MS. Treatment can also help ease symptoms and reduce potential damage due to MS flare-ups (periods when you have symptoms). Infusions are one treatment option.

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Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an immune-mediated condition that affects your central nervous system. Experts aren’t exactly sure what causes it, but they know that the immune system is involved.

When you have MS, your immune system mistakenly attacks your nerves and destroys myelin, their protective coating.

If left untreated, MS can eventually destroy all the myelin surrounding your nerves. After that, it may start to harm the nerves themselves.

There’s no cure for MS, but there are several types of treatment.

Infusion therapy is a method of delivering medication intravenously (into a vein) at a controlled pace over a period of time.

If MS attacks happen often, you may need a type of medication called a disease modifier. Disease modifiers can change how the disease behaves. They can also help slow the progression of MS and reduce flare-ups.

Some disease-modifying therapies (DMTs) come as infused medications. These infusion treatments may be especially helpful to people with aggressive or advanced MS.

Read on to learn more about these medications and how they help treat MS.

Four infusible disease-modifying drugs are currently approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat MS.

Alemtuzumab (Lemtrada)

Doctors give alemtuzumab (Lemtrada) to people whose MS has not responded well to at least one other MS medication.

This drug works by slowly reducing your numbers of B and T lymphocytes, which are types of white blood cells (WBCs). This action may reduce inflammation and damage to nerve cells.

You receive this drug once per day for 5 days. Then, 1 year after your first treatment, you receive the drug once per day for 3 days.

Common side effects of this drug include:

  • rash
  • headache
  • fever
  • common cold
  • nausea
  • urinary tract infection (UTI)
  • fatigue

This drug can also cause very serious — and potentially fatal — side effects, including:

  • autoimmune reactions such as Guillain-Barré syndrome and organ failure
  • cancer
  • blood disorders
  • thyroid disorders

Natalizumab (Tysabri)

Natalizumab (Tysabri) works by stopping the damaging immune cells from entering your brain and spinal cord. You receive this drug once every 4 weeks.

Common side effects of this drug include:

  • infections
  • allergic reactions
  • headache
  • fatigue
  • depression

Serious side effects can include:

  • a rare and deadly brain infection called progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML)
  • liver problems, with symptoms such as:
    • yellowing of your skin or the whites of your eyes (jaundice)
    • dark or brown (tea-colored) urine
    • pain in the upper right side of your abdomen
    • bleeding or bruising that occurs more easily than usual
    • tiredness


Mitoxantrone is an MS infusion treatment and a chemotherapy drug used to help treat cancer.

It may work best for people with secondary progressive MS (SPMS) or rapidly worsening MS.

That’s because it’s an immunosuppressant, which means it works to stop your immune system’s reaction to MS attacks. This effect can reduce the symptoms of an MS flare-up.

You receive this drug once every 3 months, up to a lifetime maximum cumulative dose of 140 milligrams (mg) per square meter. You’re likely to reach this dose within 2–3 years.

Because of the risk of serious side effects, mitoxantrone is recommended only for people with severe MS.

Common side effects of this drug include:

  • low WBC levels, which may increase your risk of infections
  • depression
  • bone pain
  • nausea or vomiting
  • hair loss
  • UTI
  • a lack of menstrual periods (amenorrhea)
  • blue-green urine
  • mouth sores

Serious side effects can include:

  • congestive heart failure
  • kidney failure
  • blood issues

Receiving too much of this drug puts you at risk for serious side effects that can be very toxic to your body, including the ones listed above. For this reason, mitoxantrone should be used only in severe MS cases.

Your doctor will watch you very closely for signs of side effects during treatment with this drug.

Ocrelizumab (Ocrevus)

Ocrelizumab is the newest infusion treatment for MS. The FDA approved it in 2017.

Ocrelizumab is used to treat relapsing or primary progressive forms of MS. In fact, it’s the first drug approved to treat primary progressive MS (PPMS).

This medication is thought to work by targeting the B lymphocytes that are responsible for myelin sheath damage and repair.

It’s initially given in two 300-mg infusions, 2 weeks apart. After that, it’s given in 600-mg infusions every 6 months.

Common side effects of this drug include:

  • infections
  • infusion reactions

Serious side effects can include:

  • PML
  • reactivation of hepatitis B or shingles, if either is already in your system
  • a weakened immune system
  • cancer, including breast cancer

In some cases, your doctor may suggest infusion treatments that do not also function as disease-modifying drugs for MS. These treatments are used most commonly for MS attacks or relapses. They include:

  • Plasmapheresis: Plasmapheresis involves removing blood from your body, filtering it to remove antibodies that may be attacking your nervous system, and sending the “cleansed” blood back into your body through a transfusion.
  • Intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG): In IVIG therapy, you receive blood plasma donations from people without immune conditions. This transfusion helps boost your immune system.
  • Rituximab (Rituxan): This treatment works by targeting WBCs known as B lymphocytes. It’s traditionally used to help treat conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and chronic lymphocytic leukemia.
  • Methylprednisolone (Solu-Medrol): Methylprednisolone is a potent anti-inflammatory steroid. Like other steroids used for MS, it works by helping to prevent inflammatory cells from crossing into your central nervous system.

A healthcare professional will administer infusion treatments in a clinical setting, such as an infusion center, or sometimes in the comfort of your home.

The medication is delivered slowly through a needle, typically into a vein. Because the medication is going directly into your bloodstream, a healthcare professional will usually monitor you while you’re receiving the treatment.

Side effects of the infusion process

The infusion process itself can cause side effects, which may include:

  • bruising or bleeding at the injection site
  • reddening and warming of your skin (flushing)
  • chills
  • nausea

You can also have an infusion reaction. This is a drug reaction on your skin.

For all these drugs, an infusion reaction is more likely to happen within the first 2 hours of administration. But it’s also possible for a reaction to happen up to 24 hours later.

Symptoms of an infusion reaction can include:

  • hives
  • scaly patches on your skin
  • warmth or fever
  • rash

Infusion treatments can be a good option to help treat MS symptoms and flare-ups.

These drugs aren’t right for everyone. They carry risks of rare but serious complications. Still, many people have found them helpful.

If you have progressive MS or are looking for a better way to manage your symptoms, ask your doctor about infusion treatments. Your doctor can help you decide whether these drugs might be a good choice for you.