Patient centricity could be the biggest opportunity in multiple sclerosis
Patient centricity ‐ keeping patients at the heart of drug and product development ‐ will not only improve the outcomes for patients and empower them to manage their disease, but also provide a huge opportunity for the industry.
A diagnosis of multiple sclerosis can feel like a life sentence for patients. However, according to Tim Kneen, President, Europe & Canada, Merck Serono, a move towards patient centricity through patient-focused support disease management in multiple sclerosis could be a huge opportunity for patients, caregivers and healthcare providers. "There's a real drive for patients to become more closely involved in their disease management, and in making treatment choices," Kneen told eyeforpharma ahead of speaking at eyeforpharma's Barcelona 2015 flagship event. "Connecting patients with the right information, written in the right way, can make a real difference to their outcomes, and to how they cope emotionally as well."
Industry ‐ a role and a responsibility
As an industry, we have a role to make sure that patients can access good quality, evidence-based information and support, and keep them informed about management choices for the disease".
The patient population, supported by patient associations and advocacy groups, is becoming much more empowered and engaged, with individuals taking the opportunity to have more control over the management of their disease and their treatment choices. Patients' desire for information is clear ‐ as Kneen explains: "It's interesting that the number of searches for information on the internet correlates so directly with individual therapy use," says Kneen. This means that the pharma and biotech industry has a responsibility to provide the right support: "As an industry, we have a role to make sure that patients can access good quality, evidence-based information and support, and keep them informed about management choices for the disease," says Kneen.
The pharma industry has to take the opportunity to work together with patient associations and patient advocacy groups. These groups will provide the patient information and guidance patients require, and they can also have a strong impact on the health environment. We have seen their positive efforts to encourage health technology assessment bodies and regulatory authorities to reimburse alternative treatment options, and provide new therapies for affected populations.
Meeting the patient's needs
We see this as a ground-breaking solution, as it allows the doctor to have a higher quality debate with the patient".
As part of its patient centric approach, and in response to the environment needs, Merck Serono has created an updated version of its electronic injection device to deliver Rebif (interferon beta-1a), a disease modifying drug to treat relapsing forms of multiple sclerosis. When patients use this self-injecting RebiSmart device, the device stores injection times, dates and doses. It also offers the option for patients to answer health-based questions, including things like pain, fatigue or mood changes. The information is then transmitted wirelessly to the patient's physicians and nurses, allowing them to monitor patients in between their periodic appointments. This is supported by the MS dialog web-based software.
"Generally, patients see their specialists every three to six months, and when they are asked how they are, they can find it hard to recall, or if they have kept a diary, it may not include the most important pieces of information," explains Kneen. "Our device prompts the patient, with guiding questions, to record how they feel every time they inject themselves."
Because the healthcare team is kept updated regularly on how the patient is feeling and coping, looking at symptoms and side effects, the patient's appointments can focus more on specific issues, and can be tailored to the individual's needs, based on the previous months' worth of data.
"We see this as a ground-breaking solution, as it allows the doctor to have a higher quality debate with the patient," says Kneen. As with many chronic disorders, adherence in multiple sclerosis treatment can be poor. The RebiSmart device can help to improve adherence by reminding patients (by text or email) to take their medication. It also keeps patients updated with health reports and adherence information, helping them to feel that they have more control over their disease management. These value-added services will continue to play an increasing role as patients needs and requirements develop further.
Working with emerging markets
Mobile health is a growing area, as internet-enabled devices proliferate, and wireless access becomes lower cost and easier to access. Merck Serono is working on mobile health solutions, as Kneen explains, which could help support patients and healthcare professionals in remote locations, or in developing countries.
"Using solutions such as videoconferencing could improve education for patients and healthcare professionals by providing them with access to experts. Providing this kind of support could allow nurses and healthcare assistants to provide routine care with remote support, freeing up doctors to focus on the more complex patients," says Kneen.
Keeping patients needs at the heart
Empowerment helps patients to take control of the management of their disease, and improve their outcomes, and this is enabled through education, and through patient-centric devices and services like Rebif and MSdialog. "We have to keep our focus on the patient," concludes Kneen. "That's why we are here, after all."
It is important that biotech and pharma companies and healthcare professionals work hard to understand what patients are going through, and keep this in mind as they devise new products and devices.
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