EMD Serono Gains Exclusive US Rights to MS Drug for Relapsing Forms of Disease

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by Patricia Silva, PhD |

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MS drug therapy

EMD Serono, the North American biopharmaceutical business arm of Merck, announced it has gained exclusive rights over Rebif (interferon beta-1a) in the United States. Rebif  is a treatment for relapsing forms of multiple sclerosis (MS).

Rebif, an approved drug, is used to decrease the frequency of MS relapses and delay the occurrence of some of the physical disabilities common to the disease. The drug is now the sole interferon beta-1a on CVS Caremark National Formulary, and covered through most U.S. health insurance prescription plans.

“We have also evolved our award-winning MS LifeLines® patient support service with the goal of providing a broad range of comprehensive assistance to people living with relapsing MS,” said Drew Young, senior vice president, Neurology and Immunology, EMD Serono, in apress release. “Since reimbursement can often be complicated for patients to navigate, we are working to ensure that all eligible patients are aware of our comprehensive suite of patient support programs, including our reimbursement support.”

MS LifeLines, an educational support service for MS patients and their families, is sponsored by EMD Serono and Pfizer. The service connects patients to a network of registered nurses, patient ambassadors (other MS patients or caregivers), financial support specialists, and local patient programs. MS LifeLines estimates that it receives an average of more than 300,000 inquiries each year.

Data highlighting Rebif’s clinical efficacy will be presented on Feb. 18-20, 2016, at the Americas Committee for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis (ACTRIMS) Forum to be held in New Orleans, Louisiana.

“More than 130,000 people have taken Rebif for relapsing MS since launch, and we remain confident in the future of its role in the scientific, medical and patient communities,” said Dr. Rick Munschauer, vice president, Medical Affairs, Neurology and Immunology, EMD Serono. “In 2016, we are making significant investments in data analysis initiatives and real-world evidence to better understand the burden-of-disease, treatment pathways and comparative effectiveness as they relate to improved patient outcomes.”

EMD Serono announced it will support several MS research initiatives in 2016, including:

  •  A clinical trial examining a new web- and smartphone-based technology platform for clinical outcome assessments. Data derived from this trial — “Study of clinical outcome assessments on quality of communication between HCPs [healthcare professionals] and MS patients” — could be used to determine the minimum platform needed to improve the communication between MS patients and their healthcare providers. The trial is planned to begin in the spring.
  • The company is now accepting research proposals for the 2016 Grant for Multiple Sclerosis Innovation (GSMI) program, which offers €1 million ($1.08 million) in support to projects that better an understanding of MS. The submission deadline is Feb. 8, 2016.
  • The Thorsten Eickenhorst Postdoctoral Fellowship, a National MS Society three-year fellowship program that helps to train top applicants and advance their careers. Expert researchers mentor all fellowship winners. Stefanie Giera, PhD, at Boston Children’s Hospital is this year’s winner for her research work, “Characterization of a novel G protein-coupled receptor in oligodendrocyte development.”

EMD Serono will also continue to be the sole sponsor of Elsevier’s MS Resource Centre. The resource offers free access to the latest peer-reviewed clinical work regarding the treatment of MS.

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