Tysabri and Alcohol: What to Know

Medically Reviewed by Christopher Melinosky, MD on September 06, 2022
2 min read

If you have multiple sclerosis (MS) and are taking natalizumab (Tysabri), you may wonder if it’s safe for you to drink alcohol.

If you enjoy a cocktail or glass of wine once in a while, it’s probably OK. There’s no specific warning against combining alcohol and Tysabri. Still, it’s wise to be aware of the risks and side effects.

Tysabri is a biologic, a type of drug made in a lab from living cells. It helps shut down the inflammation MS causes in your brain and spinal cord. Tysabri can affect you the same ways that alcohol can. They both may:

Drinking may affect you differently than it does someone without MS. Even a small amount of alcohol can worsen certain MS symptoms, including:

Poor sleep. People with MS can have problems with sleep. Alcohol may interrupt your sleep if you need to pee a lot or if you wake up once the alcohol wears off.

Restless legs syndrome. This disorder causes uncomfortable or weird feelings in your legs or an urge to move them. It affects some people with MS. Alcohol may make the symptoms more intense.

Bladder problems. Most people with MS have some kind of bladder trouble. Alcohol irritates your bladder and can worsen your bladder symptoms.

Balance and coordination. MS can throw off your balance, weaken your muscles, and lead to foot numbness that makes it harder to feel your feet connect with the floor. Alcohol also can throw off your balance and coordination. This can add to your gait problems and to your risk of falls and injury.

Thinking and memory. MS can cause problems with your memory, attention, and decision making. So can alcohol. This is more likely if you drink often or heavily or already have problems with thinking or memory.

You may not need to give up drinking altogether. You may make alcohol safer if you’re receiving infusions of Tysabri if you:

Limit alcohol. Moderate use can lower your risk for the problems that alcohol can cause. That means one drink a day for women and 2 for men.

Drink later in the day. This may help you avoid the need to wake up in the night to pee and other problems with sleep.

Get help if you drink too much. Tell your doctor honestly about how much you use. If you find it hard to stop or cut back, your doctor can help you get treatment.