Merck KGaA, MyHealthTeams create social media resource center MS patients

Merck KGaA's EMD Serono wants to reinforce the importance of starting and staying on a disease-modifying treatment for multiple sclerosis patients. To do that, it's partnered with health-focused social network specialist MyHealthTeams on a new resource center.

The resource center at, labeled as "sponsored in part by EMD Serono," is centered on four areas: why staying on treatment is important, obstacles to adherence, myths and facts about disease-modifying therapies (DMTs) and shared decision-making with doctors. Each offers facts and advice with science and research references, and no specific drugs are mentioned in the materials.

Driving the content creation was the goal of empowering patients to have productive conversations with their physicians about treatments.

“There is a ton of evidence that if you’re on a DMT continuously and uninterrupted, you have better outcomes. But for whatever reasons, somewhere between 35% and 40% of MS patients are not on DMTs at any point. Our goal is to provide objective and unbiased information about how you can get on them and stay on them safely, even during the COVID epidemic,” Eric Peacock, co-founder and CEO of MyHealthTeams, said.

RELATED: Turning words into art: Merck KGaA launches campaign to bring MS insights to life

For EMD Serono, maker of longtime MS standby Rebif and newer therapy Mavenclad, the added value of a social network is the opportunity to listen to MS patients and to identify their concerns and needs around treatment, Terrie Livingston, EMD Serono’s head of patient and payer solutions, said.

While the content rollout was initially set for early March, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic scuttled those plans. The companies decided to delay the launch and use the extra time to gather more information to make sure medical evidence pointed to staying on DMTs during the pandemic.

“When you have 15 different disease-modifying therapies, many with different mechanisms of action and thinking about people who are immune comprised, we definitely wanted to do some more research and outreach to specialists in MS to understand if staying on therapy applied to all DMTs,” Peacock said.

RELATED: Merck KGaA donates multiple sclerosis med Rebif to French COVID-19 trial

The parters found that doctors agreed that if a patient can safely get treatment, they would prefer the patient to stay on therapy and not stop or wait.

They also found good patient-doctor communications became critical. Telehealth visits between MS patients and their neurologists skyrocketed.

“It’s all about good communication and improving communication between the patient and physician. There is a proactive role for individuals with MS to play,” Livingston said. “In this time of COVID-19, it became even more important because you didn’t have those face-to-face clinic visits anymore. Everything was done remotely or over the phone, and so the whole concept of ‘shared decision making’ became incredibly important.”