Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a potentially life-changing immune mediated disease of the central nervous system. Until recently, treatment has been largely confined to acute treatment of relapses, symptomatic therapies and rehabilitation. Through persistent efforts of dedicated physicians and scientists around the globe for 160 years, a number of therapies that have an impact on the long term outcome of the disease have emerged over the past 20 years. In this three part series we review the practicalities, benefits and potential hazards of each of the currently available and emerging treatment options for MS. We pay particular attention to ways of abrogating the risks of these therapies and provide advice on the most appropriate indications for using individual therapies. In Part 1 we review the history of the development of MS therapies and its connection with the underlying immunobiology of the disease. The established therapies for MS are reviewed in detail and their current availability and indications in Australia and New Zealand are summarised. We examine the evidence to support their use in the treatment of MS.