Abhijit Barve, MD, PhD, MBA is the Chief Medical Officer at Viatris in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania. He earned his medical degree from University of Mumbai, India and his PhD in Biopharmaceutical Sciences from University of Illinois, Chicago. He later went on to get his MBA from the Booth School of Business in Chicago.
We're at a pivotal crossroads of knowledge and progress in multiple sclerosis (MS)—one of the most enigmatic and intricate challenges faced by both medical professionals and individuals worldwide. The MS patient population today looks quite different than the patients of 30 years ago. Increased awareness of the disease, earlier diagnosis and treatment breakthroughs are helping patients better control their symptoms and live longer. At the same time, today’s patients are being treated for longer periods of time than ever before. As the MS patient population continues to evolve, we must recognize that a one-size-fits-all approach simply does not apply. Treatment approaches and care plans must adapt to meet patients where they are today and consider their goals for the future.
Meeting patients where they are in their journey starts with understanding the current MS patient population. Several factors have impacted the course of MS, including significantly improved diagnostic rates through advancements such as spinal taps, routine MRIs throughout the trajectory of the disease, and expanding awareness and training among healthcare professionals to recognize symptoms sooner, especially among non-white ethnic groups.
Additionally, factors such as reduced smoking, increased outdoor activity and improved overall hygiene—including less Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV) exposure, a known MS contributor—have dramatically changed the makeup of today’s MS patient population.
Although we continue to not fully understand the unpredictable progress and unknown origins of this complex disease, treatment options have enabled patients to live with MS well into their 60s and 70s. The patient population has also experienced a shift in the disease trajectory that has slowed disability progression, partly due to the availability of disease-modifying therapies (DMTs).
As the composition of the MS population changes, it's crucial to ensure global access to medications to address MS and its comorbidities. We need a diverse range of treatment options for these individuals to enhance their quality of life with fewer side effects, facilitating more meaningful, extended lives.
Viatris is taking the lead in adopting a comprehensive approach to patients by helping to ensure global, timely and affordable medication access. As part of our Global Healthcare Gateway, we capitalize on our extensive infrastructure spanning 165 countries to extend patient access and provide regulatory support to bring solutions to diverse markets. We are also committed to addressing the needs of MS patients across comorbidities they might experience, such as steroids for acute episodes or hospitalizations, solutions for bladder dysfunction and addressing challenges such as depression.
Access to these treatments relies on collaborative decision-making between people living with MS and their physicians. The lack of well-defined treatment guidelines that take into account the changing demographics of the patient population, the availability of newer medicines and considerations for life-long treatment remain a challenge for physicians, patients and the healthcare system as whole. From a physician's standpoint, well-defined treatment guidelines are crucial for standardizing decisions, especially when switching a patient’s treatment. We need to invest in better data and more real-world evidence to help create guidelines that advance shared decision-making to truly meet patients where they are in their care journey.
The transformative MS research and treatment over the past three decades—uncovering the condition's complexities and innovative therapies—offers hope. Moving forward, our path recognizes that merely slowing the disease, delaying disability onset and reducing relapses is insufficient. We must embrace comprehensive care to drive more breakthroughs, global access and collaborative patient-physician decision-making. In this continuum, Viatris stands at the forefront, dedicated to providing patient-centered solutions across the globe.