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Three “Hot Topic Sessions” on multiple sclerosis will take place this afternoon (17:00 – 17:45 h, GMT + 1h) at the 31st Congress of the European Committee for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis (ECTRIMS), currently being held in Barcelona, Spain, October 7 – 10.

The first session is entitled “Early Multiple Sclerosis” and will focus on mechanisms and disease characterization in early MS. The second session will explore MS care and disease management in a presentation entitled “MS Care 3.0.” The third session, “New Players in MS Immunopathogenesis,” will center on regulatory immune cells and their role in MS pathogenesis.

On the topic of MS care, ECTRIMS 2015 is offering three presentations. The first one by A. Solari from the Fondazione Istituto Neurologico C. Besta in Milan, Italy entitled “Tools to improve shared decision making” will focus on patient decision aids (PDAs) — tools that help the patient and healthcare professionals work together to reach a medical decision based on the best available clinical evidence and the patient’s own needs and preferences. This process is referred to as “shared decision making,” where the patient actively participates in the medical decisions regarding his/her treatment and disease management. The aim of PDAs is to offer information and increase patient knowledge concerning the disease, treatment options, their risks and benefits, and possible outcomes. Care satisfaction is also assessed. The authors suggest that PDAs relevant for MS patients, including web-based PDAs, should be incorporated into the electronic health record system in order to provide a more coordinated, patient-centered care.

M. Maurer from Caritas Krankenhaus Bad Mergentheim gGmbH in Germany will present “Telerehabilitation in multiple sclerosis,” an internet-based intervention designed to positively influence the health behavior of MS patients through web-based education, online consultation, software on therapeutics and other online activities including social networking. The team conducted a randomized controlled trial called MS-Intact Study to assess this type of internet-based intervention in MS patients in terms of physical activity, functional capacity, fatigue and health-related quality of life. The results show that participants had a high level of acceptance and satisfaction with the intervention, and that it resulted in a significant increase in physical activity, muscle strength and lung function. The authors believe that this type of intervention still needs to be optimized, but that these tools — emphasizing the importance of exercise and social interaction — might offer an important assistance for rehabilitation and disease management.

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Finally, the third presentation entitled “Online fatigue management program for patients with multiple sclerosis – a randomized controlled trial” by J. Poettgen from University Medical Centre Hamburg Eppendorf in Germany will be focused on fatigue, a major disabling symptom in MS. A recent pilot study suggested that online interventions based on cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) together with telephone support may help reduce fatigue in MS patients. Based on these observations, the team developed an interactive, fully automated, online fatigue management program (called ELEVIDA) based on a face-to-face CBT intervention. The program was tested in a clinical trial on 257 MS patients with self-reported fatigue recruited online through the German MS Society. Participants who followed the ELEVIDA program for 3 months (139 patients) significantly reduced their fatigue and improved in terms of anxiety and cognitive impairment. No effects were, however, observed in terms of depression or coping with the disease. Nonetheless, the authors believe that these internet-based interventions can help reduce the patients’ fatigue and assist on a better management of the disease symptoms.

While the multiple sclerosis patient population continues to follow the developments of novel MS therapeutics, the need for constantly evolving disease management and care is a major area of focus for those with the disease. These new MS care interventions offering promising, new approaches for empowering patients with multiple sclerosis to manage their disease and maximize their quality of life.

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Patrícia holds her PhD in Medical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases from the Leiden University Medical Center in Leiden, The Netherlands. She has studied Applied Biology at Universidade do Minho and was a postdoctoral research fellow at Instituto de Medicina Molecular in Lisbon, Portugal. Her work has been focused on molecular genetic traits of infectious agents such as viruses and parasites.
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