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IVIG

A Comprehensive Guide to IVIG Therapy for MS

Woman with MS sitting in a wheelchair

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a debilitating condition affecting nearly one million Americans. Treatments for MS used to focus only on preventing complications. However, with significant advancements in medicine, like using IVIG for MS, patients are now enjoying a better quality of life.

IVIG is a form of treatment that provides antibodies to patients, which help fight off infection while also decreasing the risk of an MS relapse. It can be effective in helping you manage your symptoms and live a better life with MS.

If you’ve just heard about this therapy, perhaps it’s time to learn about it and then discuss its potential with your physician. Here is everything you need to know about IVIG treatment for MS.

What is MS?

Before learning about the potential of IVIG for MS, you need to understand the disease itself.

Multiple sclerosis is the most common demyelinating disease in the US. In this autoimmune condition, your body’s immune system attacks your central nervous system, which includes the brain and spinal cord.

Each nerve in the body is made up of several cells (neurons) that are coated in a fatty tissue called myelin. Myelin helps to protect the neuron and assists in providing quick messages to and from the brain.  In MS, the body mistakes the myelin as foreign and begins to attack it. This damages the myelin, causing scars or plaques in its place. Since the myelin is depleted, messages can’t get relayed as quickly or efficiently and communication is disrupted. In some cases, there may be damage to the actual neuron, which results in an increase in disability.

MS is more common in women than men and occurs between 20 and 50 years of age. It can affect people of any ethnicity, but it’s more prevalent in Northern European Caucasians.

Symptoms of MS

IVIG for MS centers on improving symptoms of the disease. Since this condition affects the central nervous system, it can affect mobility and speech. The most common symptoms of MS are:

  • Fatigue
  • Vision issues
  • Mobility issues
  • Squeezing sensation around the torso (MS hug)
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Tingling and numbness
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Bowel and bladder problems
  • Muscle spasms and weakness
  • Cognitive issues like difficulty focusing
  • Pain and itching

IVIG treatment for MS shows promise in alleviating these symptoms, which might differ in severity for each person.

MS Diagnostic Tests

The initial signs of MS can mimic those of other diseases and there is no singular test to diagnose MS. Before recommending IVIG for MS, physicians must rule out other conditions using the following tests:

  • An MRI of the brain and spinal cord looking for plaques
  • Blood tests checking for other possible causes of the symptoms
  • Lumbar puncture or spinal tap tests searching for specific proteins
  • Evoked potential tests measuring the brain’s response time to nerve stimulation

MS – Forms and Treatments

MS is categorized as below based on its four disease courses.

1. CIS

Clinically isolated syndrome (CIS) is the early episode of symptoms that lasts 24 hours or more. Symptoms such as visual issues, tingling, and numbness in this stage arise from inflammation or demyelination in the central nervous system. Although CIS is typical of MS, not all people who have CIS go on to develop MS.

2. RRMS

Relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS) is the second course of MS for which doctors prescribe IVIG. RRMS is the most common type of MS, where partial or complete recovery (remission) periods follow periods of increased symptoms (relapses).

About 85% of patients have RRMS when doctors diagnose them with MS. Most FDA-approved treatments for MS, including Tysabri and Glatiramer acetate, target this stage of MS.

3. PPMS

Primary progressive MS (PPMS) is the escalating form of the disease, affecting 10%–15% of people at the time of diagnosis. IVIG treatment for MS may not be as effective at this stage as in RRMS.

There are no flares during PPMS, but symptoms and decreasing neurologic function steadily progress as soon as symptoms appear. The rate of progression varies between individuals.

4. SPMS

Secondary progressive MS (SPMS) develops after a person has an initial RRMS course. The difference is that there is no recovery after flares like in RRMS.

From this point on, the disease only progresses. Therefore, like in PPMS, MS for IVIG is not as effective unless used for the initial disease flare. The difference between SPMS and PPMS is that SPMS is not an initial diagnosis, while PPMS can be.

Current MS treatments focusing on RRMS are not entirely successful in managing these progressive forms of the disease. However, more promising therapies such as IVIG have emerged that can enable people to lead healthier lives with MS.

What is IVIG Treatment for MS?

IV drip

Intravenous immunoglobulin, or IVIG, is pooled antibodies gathered from healthy donors. The antibodies (immunoglobulins) in IVIG solutions for MS patients are specific proteins that strengthen the body’s immune system.

Apart from MS, doctors also prescribe IVIG for various autoimmune conditions and infections, such as Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS), HIV, primary immunodeficiency, and more. You can see this complete IVIG guide for more information on the treatment.

How Does IVIG Work?

The precise mechanism of action for IVIG is unknown. However, scientists assume that once the antibodies enter the body, they work on certain parts of the immune system, stimulating certain cells while suppressing other parts.

The suppressed parts are those that produce antibodies in autoimmune and inflammatory conditions. IVIG components prevent B and T cell activity, inhibiting them from producing autoantibodies that damage the tissues or the neurons like in MS.

Overall, the ultimate goal of IVIG for MS and other complex conditions is to normalize the immune system, decrease the length of relapses, and lengthen the time period between relapses.

How Can IVIG Treatment Help With MS?

The mechanism of IVIG treatment for MS relies on the positive effects of the infusion solution on the immune system.

Studies suggest that IVIG is showing potential in the following areas:

  • Managing acute relapses and preventing new ones
  • Preventing relapses of MS in postpartum pregnancy
  • Helping people who can’t tolerate traditional MS medications
  • Treating people who received unsuccessful first-line treatment for RRMS
  • Promoting remyelination of nerves in the central nervous system and slowing down disease progression

Here is how IVIG therapy can affect different courses of the disease.

IVIG for CIS

Studies point to the effectiveness of IVIG for this stage of MS. IVIG can be the ideal therapeutic option for CIS, especially when other forms of immunotherapy are unavailable or were unsuccessful.

IVIG for RRMS

Clinical trials show the positive effects of IVIG treatments on RRMS. IVIG in these trials slowed down the formation of brain lesions and lengthened the period between relapses.

IVIG is also able to prevent relapses in postpartum pregnancy. This effect of IVIG makes it an ideal treatment for pregnant women and those who are breastfeeding since they can’t take immunomodulatory drugs.

IVIG for PPMS and SPMS

IVIG for MS is not as effective in the progressive stages. However, some preliminary studies highlight its effectiveness in helping people with PPMS manage their symptoms.

How Effective is IVIG Treatment for MS?

The effectiveness of IVIG for MS is not entirely known. Most healthcare providers base it on its positive effects on conditions such as myasthenia gravis and Guillain-Barre Syndrome.

Studies evaluating the effect of this treatment on MS show an improvement in disability. MRI scans also point to an improvement in the number and size of lesions in the brain.

The most notable effectiveness of IVIG is evident in the lower relapse rates following childbirth. In other autoimmune demyelinating conditions such as NMO, IVIG reduced the relapse rate from 0.1 to 0.006 in one year.

Side Effects of IVIG

While receiving IVIG for MS, you might temporarily experience the following side effects:

  • Fever
  • Rashes
  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Flu-like symptoms

Less than 1% of recipients might experience the long-term side effects of IVIG, including:

  • Renal (kidney) impairment
  • Thrombotic (clotting) events
  • Aseptic meningitis

How Does IVIG Treatment for MS Go?

You can receive IVIG treatment at an outpatient center or opt for home infusions. It’s a simple procedure in which a trained nurse administers the solution subcutaneously or intravenously through an IV.

Receiving IVIG for MS will take about 1 to 4 hours each time. The process is not painful, but you might feel discomfort when the nurse inserts the needle into your arm.

How Long Does IVIG Take to Work?

A woman receiving IV treatment

It might take several days to weeks to notice any improvements in your MS symptoms. The more significant changes will occur within a few months after you start treatment.

So it’s crucial to stay patient and not expect overnight results.

How Much Does IVIG for MS Cost?

The cost of IVIG treatment for MS varies for each person. It depends on the following factors:

  • Age
  • Weight
  • Injection method
  • Treatment duration
  • The number of required doses

Depending on the brand, each gram of IVIG can cost between $100 to $350.

Insurance and Financial Aid for IVIG

Insurance typically covers a portion of the treatment cost depending on the person’s diagnosis and whether a physician deems it necessary.

Even then, IVIG treatments can be expensive. You can reduce the costs by checking for copay assistance programs that offer financial assistance for your condition.

Receive At-Home IVIG for MS from AmeriPharma™ Specialty Pharmacy

IVIG is a promising treatment for MS, and it can make life with this disease easier. You can conveniently receive IVIG infusions from trained nurses at AmeriPharma™ Specialty Pharmacy.

We provide home infusion services and hard-to-find medications for various conditions to help you manage your health. With full-service coordination, copay assistance, and 24/7/365 support in 40+ US states and territories, we strive to simplify your treatment journey. Talk to a specialist today to start receiving IVIG for MS.

This information is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment. Talk to your doctor or healthcare provider about your medical condition prior to starting any new treatment. AmeriPharma™ Specialty Care assumes no liability whatsoever for the information provided or for any diagnosis or treatment made as a result, nor is it responsible for the reliability of the content. AmeriPharma™ Specialty Care does not operate all the websites/organizations listed here, nor is it responsible for the availability or reliability of their content. These listings do not imply or constitute an endorsement, sponsorship, or recommendation by AmeriPharma™ Specialty Care. This webpage may contain references to brand-name prescription drugs that are trademarks or registered trademarks of pharmaceutical manufacturers not affiliated with AmeriPharma™ Specialty Care.
MEDICALLY REVIEWED BY Dr. Samantha Kaeberlein, PharmD

Dr. Samantha Kaeberlein, PharmD was born and raised in Canton, OH. She received her pharmacy degree from Northeast Ohio Medical University (NEOMED) in 2020. The most rewarding part of her job is providing medical guidance so patients can make informed, well-rounded decisions regarding their healthcare. Her areas of expertise are geriatrics and long-term care. In her free time, she enjoys spending time outdoors, reading, and hunting for the best cup of coffee in America.

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