Merck KGaA’s EMD Serono sponsors MS specialty fitness training program

Exercise is important in managing multiple sclerosis, but going to the gym can be intimidating. So EMD Serono, the North American biopharmaceutical arm of Merck KGaA, worked with Dave Lyons, a professional bodybuilder who has MS, to sponsor the specialized MS instruction needed for athletic trainers.

Lyons, who founded MS Fitness Challenge in 2012 along with his wife Kendra Lyons, worked with the American Fitness Professionals and Associates to create a specific 30-hour program for trainers at gyms to more effectively work with MS patients. EMD Serono sponsors trainer scholarships, which cost about $200 per certification, every month. So far more than 12 have completed the program.

“Not only are the Lyons' great advocates for the MS community and with their MS Fitness Challenge encouraging people to get out there, be active and take control of certain elements of their lifestyle, but it’s also good for EMD Serono because it helps us focus on the patient as a whole, as opposed to just how our therapies interact with the patient,” David Nichols, senior director of advocacy and state government affairs at EMD Serono, told FiercePharmaMarketing.

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Merck KGaA has plenty of reason to support MS patients, with the German pharma leaning heavily on key med Rebif, an interferon treatment. And the fitness challenge isn't EMD Serono's first effort to do so; the company also runs the support network MS LifeLines.

EMD Serono’s partnership with the Lyons and MS Fitness Challenge will run through the end of the year, but the drugmaker will likely extend the effort, Nichols said.

“The MS Fitness certification will be regularly updated and evolve as time goes on," he said. "... Ultimately, we’d like to see trainers working around the country to help MS patients. We know there’s a demand out there for it."

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