Cimzia maker UCB signs MyHealthTeams to pump up spondyloarthritis social network

In a quickly crowding ankylosing spondylitis market, Cimzia maker UCB is working hard stand out with its beyond-the-pill offerings. Back in January, it partnered on a spondyloarthritis social network, and now, it's taking that partnership one step further to offer that network a resource center. 

The Belgian drugmaker is working with MyHealthTeams, which specializes in disease-specific social networks, to bring online education and tips to the 15,000-member-strong MySpondylitisTeam network, the companies said. 

MyHealthTeams has plenty of experience in that department. CEO Eric Peacock said 10 other resource centers are in the works or already up and running across its 29 condition-specific social networks. Last month, the group launched a cognition resource center sponsored by Biogen on the MyMSTeam social network to help multiple sclerosis patients figure out and connect brain fog or cognition issues to their condition. More than 10,000 patients have already tapped into it, he said.

“We do a lot of research with our partners. Oftentimes the medical affairs and clinical side of pharma is coming to us because they want to figure out what’s really happening in the lives of patients here,” Peacock said. “The goal is to help educate in an unbranded and empowering way—what do you need to know—and reach them where they are.”

The new spondyloarthritis resource center contains info about the disease and exercise tips, and it explains common symptoms, too. The condition is estimated to affect more than 1% of Americans, but the path to diagnosis can be lengthy since chronic back pain, stiffness, joint pain and fatigue—common everyday ailments—are its main symptoms. The new center includes a interactive quiz to help identify those issues and, in early testing during the past month, more than 2,000 people have already taken it.

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“When you provide people with super-tailored information that’s helpful, they’re going to engage in it, they’re going to thank you for it, and they’re going to talk to each other about it, which is really important because then it’s more likely that they’ll take action in their own lives to do something about it,” Peacock said.

Cimzia, an anti-TNF drug, is competing against a new class of anti-inflammatory drugmakers who are looking to expand beyond psoriasis. Novartis blockbuster Cosentyx won a green light to treat ankylosing spondylitis in early 2016, and its chief rival—Eli Lilly's Taltz—could soon be up for an approval after racking up positive data in trials.