Dimethyl fumarate (Tecfidera) is a relatively new prescription medication for multiple sclerosis (MS). It was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2013. Tecfidera is for long-term treatment, and it can affect your lifestyle. So, you may have many considerations when taking this drug, such as whether you can continue to drink alcohol.

Tecfidera is the brand name for dimethyl fumarate. It’s prescribed to treat relapsing forms of MS in adults. You take it by mouth twice per day for long-term therapy throughout your life to manage your MS.

It’s not known exactly how Tecfidera works. Researchers believe it may help moderate the damage your immune system does to your nervous system. In MS, your immune system causes lesions on your nerve cells, which eventually prevent messages from traveling from your brain to the rest of your body. While no treatment can completely stop or reverse the damage caused by MS, Tecfidera has been shown to reduce relapses and slow the degenerative effects of MS.

There are no recommendations against drinking alcohol while you take Tecfidera. Still, it’s best to see how Tecfidera affects you by itself before you add alcohol.

If you’ve recently begun taking Tecfidera, abstain from alcohol for a week to 10 days. This allows your body enough time to acclimate to the drug. In that time, you should get a sense of how your body responds to it.

If you do decide to drink, do it in moderation. Tecfidera can decrease the number of your white blood cells. This can make it more difficult for your body to fight infections. Alcohol also suppresses your immune system, so combining it with Tecfidera could make you more prone to illness. Excessive alcohol consumption can negatively affect your physical health, which can cause setbacks and lead to worsening MS symptoms.

Weighing the risk: Could alcohol be good for MS? »

While your body acclimates to the drug, you can see if you develop any side effects from it rather than from alcohol. The most common side effects of Tecfidera include:

  • diarrhea
  • nausea
  • flushing
  • reduced white blood cell count

The FDA also indicates that Tecfidera may reduce your white blood cell count. People with decreased white blood cell counts may have more infections and more trouble fighting off invading viruses and unhealthy bacteria. However, some research shows that people taking placebo were just as likely to develop a new infection as people who were taking the medication.

For more information, read about the effects of Tecfidera on the body.

Medication affects everyone differently. Your doctor will consider your personal medical history when prescribing a medication and advising you about the use of alcohol with it.

Be honest about your personal lifestyle and habits. If the safety of mixing one of your medications with alcohol could be a problem for you, ask for a different medication. Together, you and your doctor can find a personal treatment plan that helps slow the progression of your MS and reduce its symptoms.