Health — 26 May 2011

A new survey among people living with MS reveals the crucial need for support from employers as well as physicians to make continued employment a viable option for them. Merck Serono, a division of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, has been the first to respond to the report, which is named MSIF Global Focus on Multiple Sclerosis at Work.

The company this week announced its ongoing commitment to support people living with multiple sclerosis (MS). The move comes in recognition of World Multiple Sclerosis Day. The Consider MS Survey, commissioned by Merck Serono in response to this year’s focus by the Multiple Sclerosis International Federation’s (MSIF) on MS and work, reveals that of those surveyed, 80% of people with MS said they needed more support from their employers than they are currently getting in order to continue working.

The question of work is also a concern for people with MS and their healthcare professionals (HCPs). Although 81% of people with MS reported having discussed MS and work-related matters with their HCP in the past 12 months, half (51%) still felt they needed more support from their HCP on discussing MS with their employer.

These data suggest there is ample scope for future collaboration between the patient, his or her physician and employers to find innovative ways to keep people with MS in the labor force, a particular concern in a period of restricted budgets and healthcare spending.

“Flexible hours, working from home, adaptive office environments and a commitment to raise awareness of our progressive policies throughout our organization will form the cornerstone of our employment practices,” said Dietmar Eidens, Head of Global Human Resources at Merck Serono. “Today, Merck Serono is proud to make public its commitment to apply these practices across our offices in Europe and beyond and we look forward to other companies joining us in our commitment and addressing multiple sclerosis at work.”

“Work is an important part of life for everyone, and for people living with multiple sclerosis, it can be a lifeline to independence and fuller participation in the workplace and society,” said Pieter van Galen, an MS patient who was diagnosed 5 years ago. He continues to work full-time in and around Belgium as a private trainer/consultant for various companies. “This survey reveals the important role employers and healthcare professionals could have in making this a possibility for people with multiple sclerosis. And it is simple to do: I call on all employers to consider making working hours flexible, ensuring offices are accessible, and even just making sure parking is easy and close.”

World MS Day 2011, an awareness day hosted by the Multiple Sclerosis International Federation (MSIF), has the theme this year of Work and MS with a focus on the role that employers can play in enabling people with MS to stay on the job (http://worldmsday.org/). It is an independent, multi-stakeholder event to which Merck Serono has responded with its commitment to HR policies supporting people with MS at work. This theme is of particular importance to people living with MS in Europe as MS often strikes people of working age and, uncontrolled, can potentially mean a loss of years of working life. Indeed, up to 47% of people may stop work within three years of being diagnosed with MS.

For more information, please visit http://www.merckserono.com or http://www.merck.de

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David Harvey, Editor

David Harvey left school at 17 and went straight into newspapers as a cadet reporter. (He also a keen photographer and learned both trades.) He worked as a photojournalist in Hong Kong and as a war correspondent in Vietnam during the war. He moved to Australia in the late 1970s and got involved in I.T. during the mid-80s. This website is his latest venture here, combining news-gathering with the power of the internet. See: news-reporter

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