Natalizumab (Tysabri) is used to treat multiple sclerosis (MS) and other serious autoimmune conditions. It’s a monoclonal antibody treatment. Monoclonal antibodies are identical copies of one immune cell. They’re made in a laboratory.
Tysabri is an intravenous (IV) drug that contains these antibodies. Once you receive the antibodies through an IV, they circulate in your body and bind to immune cells that may be damaging your nerves.
Tysabri doesn’t interact with alcohol, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s safe to drink alcohol while taking Tysabri for MS.
While certain treatments for MS may not interact with alcohol, drinking can interact with your MS. The National Multiple Sclerosis Society reports that people with MS have experienced temporary worsening of balance and coordination even after just one drink.
The severity of MS symptoms differs depending on the day and your fatigue level. Drinking alcohol may affect these symptoms negatively.
The most common side effects associated with Tysabri are:
- aches and pains
- mood changes
Rare, but serious side effects can include:
- progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML), which is a brain infection that caused by a virus
- hypersensitivity reactions, which could lead to hives, rash, or trouble breathing
- pain or swelling in the abdominal area
After each IV treatment of Tysabri, you’ll be monitored for signs of a hypersensitivity reaction. Fever, flushing, nausea, and other symptoms can be part of this reaction. You should avoid anything that could affect how your body processes the drug. This includes all non-prescription drugs, including alcohol.
Combining alcohol with Tysabri could make side effects from Tysabri worse. It could also make your MS symptoms worse.
Alcohol dehydrates you. That can affect your balance and depress your central nervous system. According to the National Institute on Alcohol and Alcoholism (NIAAA), excess alcohol can also increase your risk of infection because it depresses your body’s immune function.
PML is a rare but serious side effect of Tysabri. The symptoms can include progressive weakness or clumsiness on one side of your body, changes in vision or thinking, and confusion. These symptoms are similar to symptoms of MS and excess alcohol use. Regular use of alcohol could make it more difficult to identify drug side effects, alcohol’s effects, and changes in your MS symptoms.
Tysabri is a powerful and highly restricted drug that’s used to treat MS. It’s prescribed to people who have not had good results with other treatments. The drug is given intravenously and has substantial side effects for some people.
If your doctor has prescribed Tysabri for you, it may mean that your MS is difficult to treat. Talk to your doctor about whether alcohol is safe for you to use while you’re taking Tysabri.